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    Equal Pay for Equal Work is Long Overdue

    davecamposDespite passage more than 50 years ago of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which requires that men and women in the same work place be given equal pay for equal work, the “gender gap” in pay persists. Census data from 2011 shows that, on average, women still earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. The pay gap is even greater for African-American and Latina women, with African-American women earning 64 cents and Latina women earning 56 cents for every dollar earned by a Caucasian man.

    Women comprise more than half of the labor force in the United States, making the consequences of wage discrimination extremely significant. In San Francisco, where we are experiencing an affordability crisis, women and families are having a harder time paying rent, securing quality healthcare, paying for childcare and saving for a rainy day or retirement. Eliminating wage discrimination is not only a matter of fairness, but it will also have real material impacts on women, families and society as a whole.

    davidOne major barrier to pay equity is the culture of secrecy around compensation in workplaces throughout this country. As a result, it is hard for anyone to determine whether they are victims of wage discrimination. A 2011 survey from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that about half of workers report that the discussion of wage and salary information is either discouraged, prohibited or could lead to punishment. So, in many cases, women just don’t know if inequality exists.

    david2Yet again, San Francisco has the chance to lead the country in the area of gender equality and workplace discrimination. I have introduced first of its kind legislation that is aimed at making equal pay for equal work a reality in hundreds of San Francisco workplaces. My legislation requires businesses that contract with the City to provide the Human Rights Commission with gender and race data. The Commission can then proactively investigate whether pay inequity is happening without having to rely on individual worker complaints.

    Additionally, the legislation contains consequences for contractors that are violating equal pay laws. If, after an investigation, the Human Rights Commission believes that discrimination has occurred, the contractor can be required to pay monetary penalties and/or risk losing its contract with the City. This will make San Francisco the first governmental entity to attach consequences for a company’s failure to comply with equal pay laws.

    Equal pay for equal work is long overdue. This is an opportunity to make meaningful change locally and influence the policy nationally.

    David Campos is a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors representing District 9. This column for the “SF Bay Times” was inspired by Harvey Milk’s efforts to build a coalition of what Milk termed “us’es,” meaning communities that value diversity and attempt to leave no one behind. For more information about Supervisor Campos and his work, please visit http://www.sfbos.org/index.aspx?page=2117