MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. — State Senate candidate Justin Wagner (D-Croton-on-Hudson) is seeking to make the gender wage gap a factor this election season - a women’s issue that is still in play despite the passage of 1963’s federal Equal Pay Act.
The politician, who is running against Senator Greg Ball (R-Patterson) for the 40th Senate District seat in November, hosted a roundtable discussion on equal pay for women that was held Wednesday morning at the Mount Kisco Public Library.
According to Wagner, the New York State Fair Pay Act has been repeatedly passed by the State Assembly with support from Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (D-Ossining), who was present at the talk along with Congresswoman Nita Lowey (D-Harrison), and National Organization for Women (NOW) co-founder Muriel Fox. However, the state Senate has not yet allowed a vote on the bill, he said.
The act would prohibit employers from discrimination against employees on the basis of gender, race or national origin regarding pay for equal and comparable work, and make it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who openly discuss their salaries or benefits in the workplace.
Lowey said that the fact that women in New York earn 82 cents on the dollar, while nationally, women earn 77 cents on the dollar, results in lost wages for families that could go toward retirement, a college fund, or a down payment on a home.
Lowey said, “Yesterday, Mitt Romney expressed disdain for working poor families and low-income seniors, many of which are women who depend on Medicare and Social Security,” which are both based on income.
Wagner said the issue of fair wages was not just moral, but economic. One of the keys to unleashing economic growth, he said, “is to make sure that everyone in the workforce knows that their work will be rewarded and that incentives are there.”
Galef, who is working on passing a bill to increase the state’s minimum wage, said the Assembly needs reasonable allies in the Senate in order to make progress.
“We need partners like Justin in the Senate to get these things to become law,” she said.
According to Wagner’s campaign literature, Sen. Ball voted “no” on the Equal Pay Act in 2007 and 2008. But a post published on Ball’s website Tuesday stated that the senator introduced a bill in April to establish a policy of equal pay for state civil service employees.
The post also touted Ball’s performance on the issue of domestic violence and other women’s issues and noted that in his four years as a New York Assemblyman, he voted in favor of equal pay five times.