Wednesday, Representative Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN) hosted a town hall forum at La Doña Cerveceria in North Minneapolis focused on gender and racial pay disparities.
The forum follows the passage of H.R. 7, the Paycheck Fairness Act – which seeks to close the gender pay gap and bring the country closer to its founding promise of full fairness and equality. The final bill included an amendment offered by Rep. Omar and Rep. Don Beyer which will ensure that significant employers are required to report more detailed data to the Equal Employment Commission, to help identify and fight the growing racial and gender gaps.
Among other provisions, the bill:
Prohibits employers from relying on salary history in determining future pay, so that pay discrimination does not follow women from job to job.
Requires employers to prove that pay disparities exist for legitimate, job-related reasons. In doing so, it ensures that employers who try to justify paying a man more than a woman for the same job must show the disparity is not sex-based, but job-related and necessary.
Bans retaliation against workers who voluntarily discuss or disclose their wages.
The forum featured a discussion moderated by Alex West Steinman Co-Founder and CEO of The Coven. Panelists included:
Abena Abraham, Organizer, SEIU Healthcare MN
Maria Regan Gonzalez, Mayor of Richfield
Christy Hall, Senior Staff Attorney, Gender Justice
Bri Sharkey-Smith, Co-President, MSP NOW. Legislative Coordinator of MN NOW
Of these panelists, Gonzalez is the first Latinx Mayor in the State of Minnesota. She explained that her passion is driven by connecting with other women of color to support their aspirations.
"My whole passion is to find the statistics; and when people tell us as young women of color, that we can't do it, or to wait in line ... many times that's just absolutely not true.” Her message to young women, "be yourself, your time is now and lead authentically."
Gonzalez’ motivation to run for mayor was to bring representation to the experience of people of color, and to fight economic disparities, "We have the second largest community in Minnesota and we are about $15,000 less than the average median income of the Twin Cities.
Panelist Abena Abraham organizes home care workers primarily in Rochester, Minnesota. Her work is motivated by watching her single immigrant mother, "work in those fields and not get any [of] the respect or pay.” Her mother was motivated by giving back and supporting her community, and Abraham works to elevate this work. In Minnesota, the largely female workforce is “working well over eight hours a day, 40 hours a week and not getting paid any overtime.”
While the rest of organized labor has been declining, home care has been increasing,
According to Abraham, over the last 25 year period, home care workers have been organizing in increasing and dramatic numbers, over 600,000 across the country.
These gains have been attacked by various groups. Abraham clarified that these attacks are not simply against union workers but against a workforce largely made up of women of color who have recently been asserting their voice and their rights to a dignified job.
Omar explained that the Bill is designed to aid in efforts, "to help identify and fight the growing racial gender gap.” In elaborating on the goals of the bill she stated that,
"When we are not approaching situations with an intersectional Lens, we are often leaving behind someone. It's not only what women deal with, but then you have to consider what are the implications when people apply race and class and other classifications. It, will do that in part by ensuring that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has the information it needs to detect pay discrimination and to identify the additional cross section of biases; and further ensures that major employers are required to report that information to the commission that will a go a long way toward finally ending systematic discrimination in this country, basically the severity that working women of color are up agianst. ...I and everyone on this panel know that we could not do this work without the partnership of everyone within our communities."
In explaining the relevance of a pay equity forum at a brewery. President of La Doña Cerveceria, Sergio Manacero explained,
"The brewery’s Mission is to develop community and so any political event that is about community and coming together to talk about issues that are real in our community and in the nation at large, I think that’s a positive impact. To have designed the space... means that we have to host events like this; it's not a matter of should we or shouldn’t we, it's absolutely. Let's bring people together to have difficult conversations.”
As the first Latinx owned and themed brewery in Minnesota, space was designed to dynamically showcase Latinx culture whether it's a watching 3x3 soccer on the field on the patio, live music or a craft event.