Labor studies students engage with PEF on Equal Pay Day
By DEBORAH A. MILES
PEF played a role in Equal Pay Day, April 10, when nearly 60 students at Hofstra University in the Village of Hempstead were enlightened about how unions recognized and supported women in their struggle for fairness.
PEF Region 12 Coordinator Nora Higgins and PEF member Shital Patel, an associate economist at the state Department of Labor (DOL), were invited to speak to the students in the Labor Studies Program.
Higgins, who wore red to demonstrate that women were still “in the red” regarding equal pay, spoke passionately about the work scene decades ago when women organized, united and became trailblazers for a fair wage.
“Equal pay is an ongoing issue and has been around for centuries where women have been slighted. It is still happening in 2018,” Higgins said. “Because women earn less, on average, than men, they must work longer for the same amount of pay. The wage gap is even greater for most women of color.
“According to labor statistics, women had to work all of 2017 and up to today, April 10, 2018, to catch up to what men earned in 2017 alone. The date for a woman of color is August 7, 2018 and for a Latino woman, November 1, 2018. The Fair Pay Law went into effect in February 2017, but there is still work to be done.”
Higgins emphasized how there has always been a fight against the top 1 percent, the upper class, and how unions were responsible for forming the middle class.
“Being a part of a union actually guarantees a negotiated salary and better wages for all people in all walks of life. Unions provide fairness in pay no matter who you are or where you work,” Higgins said.
She also spoke about the importance of solidarity and cited U.S. Supreme Court cases such as Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association and Janus v. AFSCME.
“It was very informative to hear about the labor movement in the U.S., and how unions have supported women in the workforce,” Patel said. ”I spoke about labor market conditions on Long Island including areas of job growth, the unemployment rate and opportunities for recent college graduates.”
Both women said it was a great opportunity to talk with college students who are interested in the labor market.
“The students asked meaningful questions, so we struck a note with them. We wanted them to remember that equal pay is an ongoing struggle and it should be everyone’s goal to get their fair share and not be slighted,” Higgins said.
Karen Fernbach from the Hofstra Law School also addressed the students.