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Thursday, April 8, 1999


Hawaii’s pay equity
better than U.S. average

Staff and wire reports

Tapa

Where's my 18 cents?

That's the cry of working women across the state, who say they are paid an average 82 cents for every dollar a man earns in a comparable job. The disparity is even greater for minority women.

Nationally, women's pay lags behind men's pay for comparable work by 26 cents to the dollar.

The inequity means that today is "Equal Pay Day" -- the day in 1999 when U.S. women's wages symbolically catch up to what men earned in 1998, according to the state Commission on the Status of Women.

Gov. Ben Cayetano and county councils are supporting the effort by women's groups to acknowledge the wage gap.

At a news conference yesterday, Lt. Gov. Mazie Hirono said Hawaii's strong unions may be the reason that the state's wage gap is better than the U.S. average.

Still, Hirono noted, "Over a lifetime, economic disparity adds up. Women are 60 percent of all adults living in poverty."

Events planned for today include two restaurants on Kauai selling lunches to women for 75 cents and the sale of candy bars on Maui at a price of 74 cents for women and $1 for men.

Leslie Wilkins, chairwoman of the Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, said that women's pay has risen by a fraction compared with men's pay since President Kennedy signed an equity pay bill in 1963.

"At that rate my 3-year-old daughter won't achieve pay equity until she's in her 60s," Wilkins said, adding gender inequity in the workplace costs Hawaii women and their families $4,705 a year.

"Can you imagine what that (money) would do to elevate the standard of living?"

Asian-Pacific women earn 63 cents to every dollar a man makes, while Hispanic and black women earn just 54 cents to every dollar, said Lilette Subedi of the Honolulu County Committee on the Status of Women.

Their equal pay days don't come until late next month.

Bills to reduce the gap in pay equity are stalled at the state Legislature, but President Clinton is pushing in Congress an equal-pay initiative and a paycheck fairness act.

To mark Equal Pay Day in Washington, the president, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Labor Secretary Alexis Herman yesterday hosted a discussion with four women who told of their battles to address salary disputes with lawsuits as well as on-the-job diplomacy.



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