Minority business organizations and equal pay advocates in the Bay Area are backing an Assembly bill that aims to help close the wage gap between men and women and racial minorities.
AB 1890, the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act of 2016, would require large contractors with the state to collect wage data by occupation, gender and race. Specifically, it requires that an employer with 100 or more employees in the state and a contract with the state that is at least $50,000 submit periodic reports that show the total number of workers in a job position identified by race and gender.
Business groups like the Bay Area Business Roundtable, Solano Black Chamber of Commerce and Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce, as well as equal pay advocates like Oakland-based Equal Rights Advocates, have expressed support for the bill, which passed the Assembly in June and is slated to go before the Senate’s Appropriations Committee in August.
K. Patrice Williams, an attorney, lobbyist and founder of advocacy firm BrandGov Inc., who represents those groups, said the bill would provide the opportunity to access information about how many women and minorities are employed at firms that contract with the government, how much they are paid and perhaps provide an incentive for establishing more equitable pay structures.
“With clarity, you’re able to act on it,” Williams said. “You can say, ‘Look at these numbers,’ and it’s almost embarrassing these businesses to do better.”
A similar ordinance exists at the federal level. The U.S. Department of Labor requires federal contractors and subcontractors with more than 100 employees to submit an annual equal pay report on employee compensation. In California, state contractors receiving public money are subject to equal pay laws. The text of the bill argues that they should provide the state with wage data to ensure compliance and to advance the issue of equal pay.
“It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this act to promote pay equity and nondiscrimination in setting pay and making hiring or promotional decisions, and to obtain better data on pay equity to more wholly address the problem,” states the ordinance, which was introduced by Assemblymember Bill Dodd, D-Napa, and co-authored by assemblymembers Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, and Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego.
In 2015, full-time female employees made 79 cents for every dollar earned by men, a wage gap of 21 percent, according to a report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Census data show that gap increases for African-American and Latina women, who earn 60 cents and 55 cents, respectively, for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men.
The bill is “a good start,” said JD Stewart, who owns Richmond-based Supply Cloud LLC, a supply chain and logistics information company that works to help minority-owned companies bid for government jobs.
While it is a good step for the state to start gathering information about equal pay, Stewart said he thinks the government should do more to help increase supplier diversity and the ability for small, minority-owned businesses to compete for government bids.
At least one group, the Western Electrical Contractors’ Association, Inc., opposes the bill, according to its website. The association did not return requests for more information on its position.
The bill follows California’s Fair Pay Act, which went into effect in January and has been called the strictest fair pay law in the country. Under the ordinance, California companies are required to justify pay differences between male and female employees doing “substantially similar” work (regardless of difference in job title), and employees have the legal right to ask each other about pay without retribution from management.
Contact Annie Sciacca at 925-943-8073. Follow her at Twitter.com/AnnieSciacca.