The passage of the Oregon Equal Pay Act of 2017 last week ignited press coverage across the nation, earning Oregon recognition for once again leading the way, supporters say. Now, the bill won't simply be a headline, it is headed to the governor's desk to be signed into law.
Oregon is finally on its way to better ensuring employers compensate workers with equal pay for equal work. The House unanimously re-passed the final version of the Oregon Equal Pay Act, which passed the Senate unanimously last week, to encourage companies, large and small, to determine if they engage in pay inequity and gives them tools needed to correct compensation practices.
Senate Republican Deputy Leader Tim Knopp, of Bend, offered the following statement: "We are excited for the governor to sign into law this significant and powerful piece of legislation. It is 2017, not 1817. Pay inequity needs to be swept into the dustbin of history, and now it can be."
Knopp credits the unanimous passage with the bipartisan effort led by state Sen. Kathleen Taylor, D-Portland, and state Reps. Ann Lininger, D-Lake Oswego, and Jodi Hack, R-Salem.
The Center for Public Service was engaged by the Oregon state government Chief Human Resource Office to examine and identify pay gaps that exist among employees within the executive branch. The results of the regression analysis consistently show a pattern of difference in pay levels showing that in Oregon males earn more than females and that non-minorities earn more than minorities.
Additionally, when looking at the combination of these traits, the median results consistently show that minority females experience the lowest median monthly base pay, while non-minority males receive the highest median monthly base pay. Females in the executive branch are predicted to earn $380.34 a month less than males in their monthly base pay and minorities are predicted to earn $92.11 a month less than non-minorities in their monthly base pay.
According to the 2016 Women's Foundation report entitled Count Her In, Oregon women earn between 53 and 83 cents for every dollar men in Oregon earn. The problem exists, and is more acute for those with intersectional identities. The county-by-county earnings analysis in Oregon reveals that Oregon women face a substantially different wage gap based on where they live.
According to the Oregon Commission for Women the need for equal pay in Oregon is supported by data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The commission says that analysis shows women are paid just 81 cents for every dollar paid to men. The situation is increases in severity when it comes to women of color.
Among women in Oregon who work full-time, year-round black women are paid 68 cents, Latina women are paid 51 cents and Asian women are paid 79 cents, for every dollar paid to a white male. These lower earnings impact women and their families, especially the 23 percent of families headed by single mothers.
"In practical terms, this means women and their families have less money to support themselves, spend on goods and services, and save for the future," said the commission in testimony during the bill's movement through the Legislature.
Workers with disabilities who have at least a high school education earn 37 percent less on average than their peers without disabilities, a disparity costing federal and state governments up to $31.5 billion in potential tax revenue, according to Disability Rights Oregon Executive Director Bob Joondeph. Joondeph pointed out workers with disabilities earn 64 cents for every dollar their non-disabled colleagues earn.