Women can close the pay gap by forming unions
n 2018, women once again came home with over 16 percent less money in their paychecks. Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, which means women had to work until April 2 — 92 days longer — to be paid the same amount as a comparable man in 2018.
For many women of color, this gap is much worse. For the past 15 years, the gender wage gap has barely budged and persists across all wage levels and among employees at every education level. More and more, women are turning to their unions to implement workplace tools to narrow the gender wage gap.
In 2016, women in unions were paid 23 percent higher wages than those not in a union. Moreover, unions have narrowed the gender wage gap to just 6 percent. Plus, those of us in unions are also more likely to have various types of paid leave to balance work and family.
The union contracts of our fellow Nonprofit Professional Employees Union (NPEU) members provide real-world examples of workplace policies that unions have negotiated to narrow the gender pay gap.
NPEU members have worked to combat a cycle that keeps a woman’s pay lower than a man’s. Employers often base pay scales on salary history. If a woman was discriminated against in her first job, she will continue to be paid less in subsequent jobs.
Several of our member organizations have negotiated to prohibit salary history disclosure for those applying for open positions.
Pay scales with standardized pay rates make compensation more transparent. NPEU members at multiple organizations have negotiated for clear and open pay scales that allow employees to identify their salary by job title, experience, skills and training.
This allows employees to know what their colleagues are being paid and make sure they are not being paid less for equal work. Other NPEU members secured an annual pay equity review in their union contract. This gives them a yearly opportunity to work with their employer to review salaries and close the gender gap.
Only 17 percent of workers in the United States have paid leave through their employers. Many of our members have negotiated for 8-12 weeks of paid leave upon the birth or adoption of a child.
Paid family leave for all employees helps eliminate the stigma associated with having a child and the impact on women’s wages by allowing new parents to take time off without leaving the workforce.
Additionally, most NPEU members earn between 10 and 12 sick leave days per year, which gives employees another tool to help with family responsibilities.
Our NPEU contracts also ensure that anti-discrimination policies are followed. A common component of union contracts are procedures to deal with contract violations, like not following anti-discrimination policies. These procedures allow us to hold our employers accountable to make sure discrimination is not ignored.
Unions give employees a voice to make change when inequities exist in the workplace. Additionally, organizations with unionized staff have contracts with clear and fair processes that employers cannot ignore. Coming together in union is one of the best ways employees can empower themselves to make their workplace better.
If you are frustrated by the lack of progress to narrow the gender wage gap and are looking for a way to “celebrate” Equal Pay Day, consider talking to your coworkers about forming a union.
By joining together, you will have the collective power to negotiate for workplace policies that increase equity, as well as for better pay, benefits and working conditions.
Katie Barrows, is the vice president of communications for the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union. Kayla Blado is president of the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union. Follow the organization on Twitter: @IFPTELocal70.