Women of Color and the Fight for Equal Pay

The gender wage gap is an economic and equity issue. Data shows that women are systematically paid less than men. Unfortunately, pay discrimination is common, and an indicator of systematic imbalances in the United States. However, many fail to address the nuances of the gender wage gap. The dialogue is commonly centered around pay discrimination in relation to white women, but this often overlooks the unique challenges facing women of color. The gender wage gap is an important discussion to have, and it’s crucial to address that women of color are paid significantly less than their white female and male counterparts. Latina, Native American and Black women are among the lowest paid people in our country. This isn’t a result of individual discrimination, but rather a larger institutional form of discrimination that exists.

Individual discrimination would imply an isolated incident, the result of one openly bigoted person. This isn’t the case for issues like the wage gap. The gender wage gap is the result of discrimination in hiring and promotions, sexual harassment, and bias against mothers. The same widespread discrimination pertains to race; people of color don’t have access to equal opportunity to be hired or promoted. This is a form of institutional discrimination, and it’s incredibly prevalent in our workforce.

For women of color, the wage gap isn’t just a gender equity issue – it’s a race issue. The wage gap needs to be addressed through an intersectional lens. Women of color are challenged with racism and misogyny at an institutional level, leading to lower wages. White women working full time receive 70 cents to every dollar a white man makes. Meanwhile, Latina women working full time receive 54 cents, Native women working full time receive 57 cents and Black women working full time receive 63 cents; these women would have to work up to twice as much as their white male counterparts to receive equal pay.

All industries have this problem, Seattle tech companies included. Catalyze Seattle conducted a study measuring the wage gaps within Seattle startups. The study found that Seattle startups have a gender wage gap of 10%, and a racial wage gap of 15%. Employees who identified as people of color earned approximately $90,130 – while the white respondents made $106,000 on average. If women and people of color are being paid less, it’s not difficult to deduce that women of color are being paid significantly less than their white male counterparts in Seattle.

When discussing ways to improve the wage gap, equity should be at the center of the conversation. There is a common misconception that equality and equity are interchangeable terms, but they aren’t. Equality is rooted in sameness, while equity is rooted in fairness. Equality is giving everybody the same help, without addressing their advantages and disadvantages. If sprinters racing on an oval track all began at the same place, the runners closest to the center of the oval would have the unfair advantage of running a smaller distance. This is equality. Because that would be unfair, the runners begin the race based on how close they are to the oval. This is equity. Equity aims to give marginalized people the same access to wealth and opportunity as their more advantaged counterparts.

There has been progress in recent years to close the gap. The software company Salesforce spent 3 million to close the wage gap in their company. After initiating a companywide review of salaries, and analyzing “unexplainable differences,” the company gave 6% of their employees a raise. This didn’t financially hurt the company in any way. By addressing the issue and aiding disadvantaged employees, Salesforce has taken a step in the right direction. Companies such as Apple and Facebook have taken similar steps in closing their wage gaps. Employers should be encouraged to address the issue and engage in equitable practices. For women, people of color and especially women of color to feel like valued employees – the gap needs to be closed.

Washington Cities, Counties and Utilities Unite to Launch “One-Stop” Green Business Program

The City of Seattle is announcing a program, EnviroStars, that will provide green business services from around the region under one tool.

The amplified EnviroStars program will be a central hub for Washington businesses to receive assistance and recognition for saving energy and water, reducing waste and pollution, choosing safer products and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

EnviroStars businesses can track environmental performance online and see how their actions save operational costs and positively impact the environment. “The EnviroStars program will help businesses use fewer resources, which means they can dedicate that saved money for other priorities,” said Mayor Tim Burgess. “It’s exciting to see a growing number of businesses adopt an environmentally aware mentality. Every city should have a no-cost, pro-business, pro-environment effort like this.” This free program helps businesses see what programs are available to help them address negative externalities, and can help busy small business owners set out a plan to achieve their environmental goals.

For 20 years, Seattle Public Utilities’ Green Business Program has helped businesses take actions to save money, conserve resources and contribute to a clean and healthy community. “By joining forces with other agencies and streamlining services offered throughout our region, we are making it even easier for businesses to achieve their green business goals,” said Mami Hara, Director of Seattle Public Utilities.

Over 17 agencies from around Western Washington have pooled resources to develop and launch the program, which includes a central web portal that allows businesses to find referrals for local sustainability services and incentives and start on a path to recognition. The program will also help small businesses connect with one another so they can learn from and support their peers.

Consumers can use the EnviroStars directory to find local businesses who share their environmental values—from restaurants and grocery stores, to hotels and auto body shops, and everything in between. They can also look for the EnviroStars mark on storefronts of recognized businesses in Seattle, Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond, Edmonds and other member cities starting this fall.

“The program allows consumers to make empowered choices about where to take their business,” said Laurel Tomchick, creator of the original EnviroStars program at the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County. “Choosing local EnviroStars recognized businesses reinforces better business practices—which in turn creates healthier, safer communities and motivates more businesses to ‘work green.’”

“It’s a Pacific Northwest tradition—connecting green-minded consumers with green businesses. It’s an economic and environmental win. We are committed to providing the clean energy that powers this vibrant community,” said Larry Weis, General Manager and CEO of Seattle City Light.

Seattle’s first EnviroStars recognized business is Madres Kitchen, a full-service catering and events company based in Seattle, which also participated in the City’s past Green Business Program.

Businesses that engage with EnviroStars will benefit by learning to operate more efficiently, strengthening their bottom line, improving employee health and gaining recognition for environmental leadership.

“The new EnviroStars program will provide a one-stop shop for businesses to access information about building sustainability into their ongoing business plan,” said Sara Nelson, Co-owner of Fremont Brewing. “We are excited to be part of a program that will help share our environmental accomplishments with our customers and work towards addressing climate change.”

To learn more or to get started, visit http://www.envirostars.org.

Economic Impact of DACA

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA, also known as the “DREAM” Act) was implemented by the Obama Administration in 2012. This federal program was designed to protect and support children that grew up undocumented in the United States. DACA recipients, or “Dreamers,” are students, employees and an important part of local communities. On September 5, 2017, President Trump announced a plan to repeal DACA. The DACA repeal will mean declining new DACA permits and not allowing existing permits to be renewed. This could lead to 800,000 people being deported.

Anti-immigration rhetoric is often centered around immigrants taking jobs, but doesn’t address the necessity for those jobs to be filled. To be eligible for DACA, applicants had to be under 31, brought to the U.S. before they were 16, and in the United States since 2007. This makes the majority of the DACA recipients prime working age, or students. With so many Dreamers in the work force, the repeal poses a threat for the United States economy. Ending DACA would reduce the United States GPD by $433.4 billion over 10 years and remove 685,000 individuals from the workforce. These jobs need to be filled; sudden deportation of so many workers would be detrimental to the American economy.

There are nearly 800,000 DACA recipients in the United States, 19,000 of whom are in Washington State. Nearly three-quarters of the top 25 Fortune 500 companies employ Dreamers. Prominent business leaders signed an open letter discussing the importance of Dreamers in our local businesses and calling for reconsideration of the repeal. Seattle’s own Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos and Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson stated that “Dreamers are vital to the future of our companies and our economy. With them, we grow and create jobs. They are part of why we will continue to have a global competitive advantage.”

One common argument against DACA is that Dreamers don’t pay taxes; this has proven to be false. The DACA-eligible population earns nearly $19.9 billion in total income yearly. They contribute $1.4 billion to federal taxes, and $1.6 billion to state and local taxes. This population has approximately $16.8 billion in spending power. Their impact is undeniable: 90% of Dreamers are currently employed, 65% reported buying their first car and about 16% purchased their first home. Dreamers are heavily integrated into our country’s economy and culture – deporting such a impactful and productive group hurts our economy.

DACA is projected to be repealed within six months. This means that after March 5, 2018, recipients will no longer be able to renew their DACA permit. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will not accept a renewed application after October 5th.

In Seattle, various local organizations are teaming up to support Dreamers. Seattle’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs are partnering with community organizations to aid Dreamers with the renewal process. A DACA renewal fee scholarship and zero percent interest loans are available to those who don’t have the means to pay the fee. The Northwest Immigrants’ Rights Project is offering information and resources on the DACA renewal process, and Seattle’s Refugee Women’s Alliance are is holding a DACA Renewal Assistance workshop on Friday, September 29.

Dreamers looking for support can contact the organizations listed above. Non-DACA recipients can aid Dreamers by supporting local organizations and referring Dreamers to the resources available. Dreamers are productive members of society and deserve to be here—if the presidential administration has its way, these people may have to leave the only home they know. Seattle stands with Dreamers.

ORCA Cards for Seattle Center Monorail?

The Seattle Center Monorail might be accepting ORCA card payments soon. Mayor Ed Murray has proposed ORCA card payments for the Monorail to allow easier access between the major hubs in Seattle. By implementing ORCA cards on the Monorail, the commute will be easier for residents of the city. The ORCA card is currently the transit card for the King County Metro, the Water Taxi, the Sound Transit system, Streetcars and the Washington Ferries.

Mayor Murray said, “Seattle Center is becoming more connected to downtown, and the Monorail is the best path between these two important hubs. Creating a seamless transit network that ultimately sweeps across downtown will connect Queen Anne to South Seattle, the University of Washington to the Gates Foundation, KeyArena to SeaTac. The Monorail may have been built in a different era, but it plays a vital role for connecting Seattle Center to today’s regional transportation network.”

A yearlong study conducted by the Seattle Department of Transportation found more than two million people ride the Monorail yearly. Although ridership flocculates on a day to day basis, the overall ridership is projected to increase by 7-16% within the first three years of ORCA implementation.

The monorail will keep their cash payment system and plan on adding a credit card and ORCA option. When ORCA is implemented, there will be a $0.25 fare increase.