By Ciera Young & John F. Schifalacqua
On Tuesday, April 12th, the rally cry of activists was loud and proud to represent organizations across Pittsburgh dedicated to eliminating the wage-gap between men and women. The growing crowd in the heart of downtown echoed a unified message, shouting: “clap your hands and raise your voice, equal pay is not a choice!”
The rally sought to inject Pittsburgh with a renewed urgency to raise the City’s collective voice against gender, race, and worker inequity. In Southwestern Pennsylvania, women make approximately 75 cents for every dollar compared with white men of the same education and occupation. When demographics are added to the consideration, the difference is much larger, with African-American women making close to 63 cents on the dollar, Latina women making 53 cents and transwomen making under $10,000 a year. The minimum wage is already insufficient as a living wage in Pittsburgh and these wage gaps significantly add to a decreasing quality of life among residents.
Coro Fellow Ciera Young, of the Women and Girls Foundation, was the lead organizer of the rally and was largely responsible for its success. She seeks to do something about this growing issue:
“I have lived in Pittsburgh for six years and the inequity is palpable,” said Young. “I was more than willing to take this project on and I’m glad that I helped create a space for people to share how wage inequity is impacting them. It’s more than just getting a raise. It’s about ensuring that everyone has the ability to thrive in this city. When we say that Pittsburgh is progressive or that it’s the most livable city I want that to be a reality for everyone.”
Although speakers celebrated the examples of work across Pittsburgh that advance wage equity, everyone echoed a solemn recognition and disappointment that the wage gap still exists.
“It’s sad that it’s 2016 and we’re standing here. It’s appalling that women earn less than men in 2016,” said Pittsburgh City Councilperson Dan Gilman.
Erin Molchany, director of the Southwest Pennsylvania regional office of Governor Tom Wolf echoed the same sentiment: “”It just doesn’t seem appropriate to say ‘happy pay-equity day.’ It just doesn’t seem appropriate. We all have to own this. That’s the only way to change it. While I’m honored to be here, I’d rather come back and celebrate equal-pay day because we’ve achieved equal pay.”
Coro Fellow John F. Schifalacqua, who was with the YWCA Greater Pittsburgh delegation at the rally, has worked extensively with the organization to own this problem and close the gender and race equity gap.
“It’s a great injustice that pay discrimination exists,” said Schifalacqua. “Everyone should have the right to achieve their dreams based on merit alone. It’s a travesty that some are limited by a wage gap that marks it harder for no other reason than one’s gender or race. We all have a duty—women and men alike—to do everything possible to close the wage gap. Men need to recognize this injustice and follow the examples of courageous activism demonstrated by the women at this rally.”
Organizations from across the City represented a collaborative spirit and demonstrated the ways that equal pay reinforces other causes. Representatives from the Fight for $15, the Sierra Club, Pittsburgh United, SEIU, AFL-CIO, Dress for Success, YWCA Greater Pittsburgh, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Planned Parenthood, Pittsburghers for Public Transit, Restaurant Opportunity Center, Fight for $15, New Voices for Reproductive Justice, American Association of University Women, Cafe Con Leche, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Latin American Cultural Union all spoke to the implications of the wage gap for other social initiatives.
“The event went well but I don’t want to say ‘see you next year’,” said Ciera Young, reflecting on the rally she planned. “At the pace we’re going the wage gap will not be eliminated until 2072 for all women in Pennsylvania. Women and families cannot wait that long.”