By Contributor on April 17, 2012

By Juleyka Lantigua-Williams

Tuesday, April 17, is Equal Pay Day. This date represents how far into 2012 women must work to earn what men earned in 2011.

Because, on average, women get paid 77 cents for every dollar men earn, they have to work more for the same pay.

This disparity goes beyond the issue of gender equality. This is an economic injustice that affects nearly half the workers in this country.

The Department of Labor estimates that women made up 47 percent of the total U.S. labor force in 2010, accounting for up to 66 million workers. Overall, 73 percent of employed women worked full time, while 27 percent worked part time.

We cannot afford to be underpaying almost half the workers when our country is experiencing such challenging economic times.

And women are not the only ones affected.

Families are affected. Almost 14 million married couples with children relied on two incomes in 2009, representing 60 percent of all married couples with children, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

Black and Latina women are affected.

African-American women make only 62 cents, and Latinas only 53 cents, for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men, the law center notes. Considering that they represent the two largest ethnic groups in the country, we are continuing the economic segregation that defined much of the last century.

Single mothers and their children are affected.

Lower earnings cripple the economic security of the 6,340,000 families headed by working single mothers, 41 percent of whom already live below the federal poverty line.

The ability of women to retire is affected.

The Center for American Progress estimates that a typical woman would lose $434,000 over a 40-year period due to the wage gap. Economist Evelyn Murphy, president of The WAGE Project, estimates that the wage gap costs the average American full-time woman worker between $700,000 and $2 million over the course of her lifetime. Lower lifetime earnings mean lower Social Security benefits for women.

This problem must be addressed at a national level, since men earn more than women in every single state. The Paycheck Fairness Act, currently pending in Congress, is essential to combat unfair pay because it would allow victims of sex-based wage discrimination to seek justice.

But we don’t have to wait for Congress.

Businesses can ensure that they don’t discriminate against women workers by performing an Equal Pay Self-Audit provided by the U.S. Department of Labor on its website.

Women are projected to account for 51 percent of the increase in total labor force growth by 2018. We cannot wait until then to rectify this economic injustice.

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams writes about current issues for the Progressive Media Project. She can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

You can read more pieces from The Progressive Media Project by clicking here.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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