Some of Illinois’ most prominent female elected officials joined a group of about 200 women’s rights advocates for an Equal Pay Day rally earlier this week.
About 26 organizations, including several trade unions and the U.S. Department of Labor, sponsored the event which took place around lunch time at Daley Plaza on Tuesday. The group said women in Illinois earn about 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. To close that wage gap, women would have to work an extra 108 days a year.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was one of the last speakers who took the stage at the event. She spoke of the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which gives workers more time to file an equal-pay lawsuit. Lilly Ledbetter filed a lawsuit against her employer after learning her male counterparts earned more than she did for similar work.
“The court of appeals overturned her case charging that she had not filed her case in a timely manner, and unfortunately for us the Supreme Court agreed,” Preckwinkle said. “But Lilly Ledbetter did not give up. She campaigned tirelessly across the country for basic fairness.”
The Ledbetter Act became President Barack Obama’s first piece of signed legislation.
Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown also spoke at the rally. She pointed out that African-American and Latino women earn even less, at 62 cents and 54 cents respectively to every dollar a man brings home.
“As we stand here today, despite breaking the ceilings in every profession known to man, it appears we need a rocket to launch us to the same pay level as men,” Brown said.
A new report released this month by the National Partnership for Women & Families showed that when combined full-time working women in Illinois lose about $21 billion to the wage gap. According to the report, the wage gap exists across all industries and education levels in the country.
To close the gap, advocates like Shameesha Pryor, a junior at EPIC Academy Charter High School, are urging elected leaders to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. Pryor read an excerpt from a letter she sent to U.S. Senator Mark Kirk, who previously voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, urging him to reconsider his position.
“Now is the time for you Mr. Kirk to listen to the voices of the citizens. Women are a part of the world, just like men, and they deserve their fair share of the pie,” she said.
While the Paycheck Fairness Act fell short of approval by only two votes last year, it has been reintroduced to Congress. The act would protect workers who compare salary information with colleagues, and would allow women more leverage to sue for damages in gender-based discrimination cases.