‘Something needs to change’: Wolf admin, Casey, state lawmakers call for action on wage gap

Calling unequal pay practices ‘antiquated’ and ‘absurd,’ Pennsylvania First Lady Frances Wolf didn’t mince words about the importance of pay equity

By: - March 15, 2022 3:53 pm

State Rep. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin, joins state officials to call for action to eliminate the gender wage gap (Capital-Star screen capture).

On Tuesday, Wolf administration officials and state lawmakers met at the state capitol to commemorate Equal Pay Day and call for measures to eliminate gender pay inequities in Pennsylvania. 

Equal Pay Day, which marks how far into the year women must work in order to earn what men earned in the previous year, is recognized on March 15 this year.

Calling unequal pay practices “antiquated” and “absurd,” Pennsylvania First Lady Frances Wolf didn’t mince words about the importance of pay equity in the commonwealth. 

“Women add tremendous strength to our workforce from entry level positions to CEO roles, and it is absurd that we continue to hinder their earning potential,” Wolf said. “The Wolf administration has taken steps to close the gender pay gap for state employees, and it’s time for Pennsylvania as a whole to catch up. We are hurting our women and our economy by abiding by these antiquated processes, and something needs to change.”

In Pennsylvania, women earn approximately $11,396 less than their male counterparts, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Nationally, women earn about $10,150 less than men. 

Wolf administration officials also repeated their calls for a higher statewide minimum wage on Tuesday, arguing that women would also benefit from a wage increase. 

“The majority of minimum wage earners are not teenagers but women,” State Rep. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin, said. “So as we commemorate Equal Pay Day on March 15, the symbolic date to show how far into the year the average woman must work in order to match what the average man earned in the prior year, we need to acknowledge PA’s minimum wage contributes to this gender disparity we are trying to eliminate – not only to benefit workers but also for the benefit of our families and our communities.”

Kim introduced H.B. 345 last April, which Gov. Tom Wolf included in his budget proposal for the 2022-23 fiscal year. The bill would increase the statewide minimum wage to $12 per hour, with gradual increases each year until the minimum wage is $15 per-hour, where it would then adjust according to the consumer price index. 

“Of the nearly 1 million workers who would directly benefit from an increase to $15, 62.2% are women. This means a raise for 618,400 women, or 20.9% of all women working in the commonwealth,” the Pennsylvania Commission for Women said in a statement,

State Sen. Tina Tartaglione, D-Philadelphia, called Pennsylvania’s minimum wage “embarrassingly low,” adding that “more must be done” to address the gender pay gap and raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 per hour. 

“Women in Pennsylvania face a devastating wage gap from their male counterparts which is even more acutely seen by women of color, who are paid not only less than men but less than white women,” Tartaglione said Tuesday. “The systemic discrimination that allows for the underpaying of women must be addressed and remedied.”

State officials also expressed concern gender wage gaps have on women of color across the commonwealth. 

“To learn that Black women earn significantly less than their male, white counterparts is disappointing, but to see the amount of money Black women make compared to white men decrease rather than increase confirms the need for change,” LaDeshia Maxwell, executive director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs, said. 

“A majority of Black women in the commonwealth are the breadwinners in their households providing for their children and communities, and they should be compensated fairly for the jobs they do. I know today isn’t Black Women’s Equal Pay Day but we stand in solidarity with all women in hopes that a change for some leads to a change for all,” Maxwell said.

Stephanie Sun, executive director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission of Asian Pacific American Affairs, echoed Maxwell’s comments, adding that “the same work must receive the same pay regardless of gender or ethnic background.”

Luz Colon, executive director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs, said in a statement that the gender pay gap “can no longer be ignored.”

“The ongoing pay disparities with Latinas has gone on far too long. This year’s statistics reflect that Latinas are paid just $0.49 for every dollar paid to White men,” Colon said. This means that the Latina pay gap has gotten significantly worse since the start of the global pandemic. Based on these studies, it’s important that we advocate for equal pay legislation and raising the minimum wage to help elevate working families across Pennsylvania.” 

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., also weighed in on the issue. 

“Today and every day, I am committed to advancing equality and equity for women in the workplace. In particular, women of color bear the brunt of pay inequality,” Casey said in a statement.

“Equal Pay Day is a reminder that our work to end the gender wage gap is far from over. All fifty Senate Democrats support the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would close the loopholes in the Equal Pay Act,” Casey continued. “I challenge my Republican colleagues to join us to support this commonsense legislation. In order to truly address paycheck inequality, we also need to invest in child care and home care to provide a bridge back to work for women who have to leave their jobs to care for a child or relative. I will continue to fight in Congress to support women and their families, advancing the cause of justice for workers across Pennsylvania and the nation.”

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.