New York, NY – Contrary to what the de Blasio administration is claiming, equal pay advocates rallying on the steps of City Hall last week, insisted that the ongoing plight of Early Childhood Education teachers fighting for pay parity with their DOE counterparts is not merely a “contractual issue” — it’s a racially charged social justice issue that needs to be fixed immediately.
“We can, and we should talk about the success of Universal Pre-K,” City Council Speaker Corey Johnson told Equal Pay Day advocates on Tuesday, April 2. “And we should, and we can, talk about expanding 3-K. But you can’t have a full conversation about that unless you ensure that women — predominantly women of color — are getting paid a fair wage taking care of children in New York City. This needs to be fixed. I know the mayor has said it’s part of contract negotiations, but we need to get this done because its not fair, it’s not right, and it’s happening in municipal government.”
Much of the success of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature Early Childhood Education programs relies on Early Childhood Education teachers working out of Community Based Organizations throughout the city. Many are highly accredited, fiercely dedicated, but still grossly underpaid compared to Early Childhood Education teachers working for the Department of Education. The overwhelming majoring of Early Childhood Education teachers working at CBOs are women of color.
DC1707, the union representing Early Childhood Eduction teachers working at CBO’s, is pushing the de Blasio administration to at long last address the ongoing pay disparity during the latest round of budget negotiations, rather than waiting two more years for a new contract.
Two weeks ago, DC1707 Executive Director Kim Medina jeered longstanding pay disparity as “misogynistic and racist.”
That analysis was again articulated on Tuesday during the 13th Annual NYC Equal Pay Day rally at City Hall.
Gloria Middleton, president of the union representing marginalized women of color working as administrative managers, pointed out that black women continue to earn roughly $32,000 less than white, non-hispanic man doing comparable jobs.
“We know that the fight for pay equity is not over,” Middleton said. “We will continue to be the leading voice for women and all minorities until everyone regardless of gender [and] color is paid their fair wage.”
If the de Blasio administration does not move to end the pay disparity between Early Childhood Education teachers during the current round of budget talks, a new measure passed in January requiring the Mayor’s Office to issue pay reports on municipal pay disparities could prove very uncomfortable for Hizzoner.
“For every successful person — for every man that gets it — I want you to remember that it is the Early Childhood educators, it is the civil servants, it is the domestic workers that tell you that you can lead and be somebody,” City Council Member Carlina Rivera [D-District 2] and Women’s Caucus co-chair said on Tuesday. “It is the black and brown women of this city that keep the city moving every single day. And we are not invisible.”
Newly-elected Public Advocated Jumaane Williams criticized those hoping to dismiss the racial and gender biases baked into unequal pay.
Every time people bring up misogyny, bring up racism, bring up all the ‘isms’ that are out there — people just pretend that folks are exaggerating. [But] this is not an exaggeration. This is not someone saying they want something that they didn’t earn. Just remember this data. It is not made up — it is dollars and cents.” — NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams
“Every time people bring up misogyny, bring up racism, bring up all the ‘isms’ that are out there — people just pretend that folks are exaggerating,” Williams said. “[But] this is not an exaggeration. This is not someone saying they want something that they didn’t earn. Just remember this data. It is not made up — it is dollars and cents.”
The public advocate also said that women of color are the most likely to receive “blowback” when they demand pay parity.
“Not only you being insulted and discriminating against — you can’t even say something about it,” Williams said.
City Council Majority Leader and new mom Laurie Cumbo [D-District 35], linked chronic pay disparity to many health issues facing working women of color.
“It takes a toll on you, and then to find out you’re not getting paid the same as your male counterparts when you are at the head of your household,” Cumbo said. “I understand the challenges more than I ever understood them before. I understand now when you relate all of those things to stress, to breast cancer, to infant mortality issues, to women dying in childbirth. All of these different issues that women face is because we are struggling and working so hard and not understanding why we simply can’t get ahead.”
Jacqueline Ebanks, executive director of the Mayor’s Commission on Gender Equity, expressed a similar view.
“Pay equity is not only an issue of economic mobility — it is also inextricably linked with our safety and our overall well being,” she said.
On Tuesday, Beverly Neufeld, founder of PowHer New York, an advocacy group pushing for pay equity, noted changes in the New York State Legislature and sounded a hopeful note.
“This year everybody is showing up,” she said. “We are proud of our progress. But women, — especially women of color — remain seriously and permanently disadvantaged. Now that we have a progressive majority in Albany, I think we can get a lot more done.”