Working to Bend the Arc*

NYC Equal Pay Day rally, City Hall, 4/4/17, front row, left to right, Council Member Margaret Chin, Council Member Laurie Cumbo, Public Advocate Letitia James and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, surrounded by union members and activists

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated 49 years ago today in Memphis, where he’d gone to support the striking sanitation workers. Today on the damp steps of City Hall, at the 11th Annual NYC Equal Pay Day rally, all of us, women and men, supported each other, and represented all women, as we continue the fight for economic justice.

The rally was sponsored by PowHerNY, Public Advocate Letitia James, New York City Council Women’s Caucus co-chairs Laurie Cumbo and Helen Rosenthal, joining forces with CWA Local 1180 union members, and activists. Energized (and energizing) speeches from city and state officials, among others, punctuated by a chorus of “equal pay, no delay,” demanded stronger laws, fairer wages, better jobs, and inclusive workplaces, now. To remain on the current course, would allow the wage gap in New York state to stubbornly resist closing until 2049. For black and Hispanic women, equality would not arrive until 2124 and 2248, respectively.

Tomorrow, a significant step on the road to wage equality will be voted on by the City Council: legislation sponsored by Public Advocate James which would prohibit employers from asking about a prospective employee’s salary history. And Council Member Cumbo will introduce a bill that “will work to make the gender wage data for the public section and city contractors available and transparent. This is the first step to ensure that the Equal Pay Act of 1963” is being followed. As Arthur Cheliotes, president of CWA Local 1180, said at the rally, “Obviously, women have waited long enough…”

NYC Equal Pay Day rally, City Hall, 4/4/17, from left, Comptroller Scott Stringer, union members and activists

NYC Equal Pay Day Rally, City Hall, 4/4/17, union members and activists

* “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” was used by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in both his speeches and his writing, first in a 1958 article in “The Gospel Messenger.” But he placed quotation marks around the phrase, most likely aware that the idea was originated by Theodore Parker, a Unitarian minister and a prominent American Transcendentalist, in 1853.


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