Women's History Month and Equal Pay Day
From Oregon Food Bank's Chanel Ison
March is Women’s History Month in the U.S. and March 15 is Equal Pay Day.
At Oregon Food Bank, we reject the conventional celebration of this month with acknowledgement that it enforces the gender binary and de-centers the experiences of women of color – particularly Black women. This month we honor the everyday individuals – particularly single mothers, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and all People of Color) women, trans women and gender nonconforming people, and single caregivers – whose physical and emotional labors are often unrecognized, unthanked and undervalued despite the fact that they shoulder the world.
Equal Pay Day is a symbolic day dedicated to raising awareness of the gender pay gap. In the United States, this date symbolizes how far into the year the average median woman must work in order to have earned what the average median cis-man had earned the entire previous year. March 15 is Equal Pay Day for all women, but the gender pay gap disproportionately impacts BIPOC women. Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is August 3 – for every $1 a non-Hispanic white male makes, Black women make 62 cents. Black mothers make half of what white fathers do. And Indigenous women are paid 60 cents for every dollar paid to white cis-men. Recent research has also found that trans and gender-nonconforming people are among the lowest paid LGBTQ+ people working full time in the United States.
Addressing the pay gap and achieving equal pay rights and protections is directly related to our work to end hunger and its root causes. It is our firm belief that food is a human right – everyone should have access to fresh foods without having to sacrifice or struggle in order to meet this basic need. Furthermore, because of the pay gap, those who work in fields considered “traditionally feminine” (such as teaching, nursing and caregiving) are unable to save funds in case of emergencies, afford the privileges of rest, and create generational wealth to care for their loved ones. Simply put, the privilege to be able to save money and generate wealth hugely impacts whether or not a person can be safe.
Safety is food, a home, and even the ability to purchase a vehicle so that a person can travel to and from places without the fear of gender or racial discrimination or violence. These everyday, basic needs may not seem much to those with privilege or power, but for many – BIPOC women, single mothers, and trans and nonbinary people, having access to these things is lifesaving. People who hold these identities are systemically paid poorly, starved of their human spirit and deprived of their right to safety in order to maintain their oppression and exploitation under white supremacy and the patriarchy. We recognize that under these systems, how well a person is paid says a lot about whether or not they are valued and honored in our society. For far too long, BIPOC women, trans and gender nonconforming people have been told through their paychecks that their safety, wellbeing and lives don’t matter.
We thank our community for helping to change this narrative by working to dismantle hunger and its root causes. The legislative session has officially come to a close and we’re celebrating a huge victory that the full 2022 Fair Shot agenda has passed! This includes HB 4002, which beginning next year, will end the exclusion of Oregon farmworkers from receiving overtime pay. For over 80 years, farmworkers have been excluded from receiving overtime pay, other benefits and workplace protections. Although there is still a long way to go for farmworker justice, pay rights and protections for all, we have much to celebrate. The great work will continue and we will mobilize forward!