This summer, my 3-year-old son spent his mornings watching the Women's FIFA World Cup with me. With this tournament, our women's national soccer team accomplished something more meaningful than winning: they re-energized the national discussion about pay equity.
For my family, it's important that our son understands that female athletes deserve as much pay as male athletes. When we attend Thorns games, the three of us are proud to join the crowd in chanting "Equal Pay, Equal Pay." At the same time, I also want to make clear to my son that the fight for pay equity is not just occurring on the soccer field. Rather, it is occurring in all different types of workplaces — including right here in our local grocery stores.
Today in Oregon, the women of UFCW 555 are fighting their own battle for equal pay and for a living wage. Despite laws meant to safeguard against pay inequity, the pay gap continues to exist due to entrenched practices such as Fred Meyer's pay schedules. When workers are hired, Fred Meyer places them in either Schedule A or Schedule B. Despite the schedules having similar jobs, the average difference in pay between the two is about $3.50 per hour. While two-thirds of men receive the higher-paying schedule, two-thirds of women receive the lower-paying schedule. Beyond just the pay discrepancies by schedule, women in lead positions still earn an average of $1.68 less an hour than their male counterparts.
Whether you consider the difference in wages over the course of a month, a year or a career, the amount adds up to have a real impact on families. These are lost dollars that could help pay for rent or mortgages, groceries, health care or child care. What's more, it could be the difference between having one job or two. As the women of UFCW know well, the pay gap is real. I do not believe that Fred Meyer is purposefully paying women less, but I do believe the differences in pay make clear that an unacceptable pattern exists. The gap will only be perpetuated unless conscious efforts are made to identify and eliminate the structural barriers that are inadvertently hindering women's advancement in the workplace.
Everyone should be able to earn a wage that supports them and their families. Though most of us will never know what it's like to be a professional athlete, for many American women, people of color, people with disabilities and LGBTQIA+ people, we can relate to having to fight for equal pay. I am proud of Oregon's efforts to daylight these pay disparities and I urge employers to correct them, because a rising tide will lift all boats.
I proudly stand in solidarity with the hard-working women of UFCW 555, and I hope you will join me.
Milwaukie resident Karin Power is the state representative for District 41, which includes Oak Grove and portions of Southeast Portland.
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