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Phoenix leaders propose requiring city contractors to pay women, men equally

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PHOENIX – Mayor Greg Stanton and two councilwomen said Tuesday that they will seek an ordinance requiring city contractors to provide equal pay for male and female employees.

“Gender wage discrimination is simply something we cannot tolerate anymore,” Stanton said at a news conference. “It’s not good for women, it’s not good for families and it’s not good for our local economy.”

Stanton and Councilwomen Kate Gallego and Laura Pastor made their announcement on National Equal Pay Day, which marks the number of days into 2014 the average female worker had to work in addition to earn what the average male worker earned in 2013.

“Women have worked more than four months into this year just to make the same as our counterparts made last year,” said Gallego, who will lead the effort to research and draft the ordinance. “We’re hoping to close that gap, and we believe Phoenix is the right place to show leadership.”

City contracts include a variety of industries from air conditioning and mechanical repair to marketing services, Gallego said.

“It really crosses the gamut from really technical contracts to contracts that provide basic services,” she said.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, African-American women earn 64 percent of what white men earn while Native American women earn 60 percent. Hispanic women earn 53 percent.

Stanton said Phoenix has the responsibility to lead on this issue.

“Because when we do, we can create real change,” he said. “We’ve already done it when it comes to equality for our LGBT community, we’ve done it on chronic veteran homelessness and we can do it again. We can start by making sure that companies who do business with the city pay equal wages for equal work.”

According to a report by the National Women’s Law Center, a woman will have to work 12 years longer than a man to make up a full-time wage gap of $443,360 in a 40-year period.

Marie Sullivan, CEO of Arizona Women’s Education & Employment Inc., said Phoenix has the power to provide a better quality of life for women and families.

“Can we make a difference in 12 months? Let’s see if we can close this gap,” Sullivan said at the news conference.

Sara Presler, CEO of the Arizona Foundation for Women, said called the proposal a promising first step for Arizona. The foundation held a fundraiser in front of the State Capitol in honor of National Equal Pay Day.

“It’s time we pay attention to how much we pay working women,” she said.

In 2012, Arizona had the smallest gap between men’s and women’s pay among states, but Gallego said even the smallest gap needs to be eliminated.

“Many of our women, in fact a majority, are the heads of households or co-breadwinners. So if we could help bring up the wages for women it will pay dividends for our entire city,” she said. “We will have healthier families and we’ll be investing in our next generation. So the entire community will win if we can invest in women.”