For 200 years, this country has been telling a story of our American Dream. There are variations of that story, but the basis of the moral has always been consistent — that if you work hard, you can achieve your dreams.
What makes this aspiration so powerful is that the creation of our society works to support this claim: Hard work — in school, in sports, in workplace achievement — is often recognized and rewarded. That professional reward comes in the form of a paycheck. A bonus. A raise. A fair and equitable salary.
The last part, unfortunately, is often too hard to come by. On a local level, right here in Suffolk County, women earn only 78 percent of what their male counterparts make. In New York, women of color fare more disproportionately than women of other identities — with black women earning just 64 percent of what men earn, and Latina or Hispanic women earning only 55 percent.
In Suffolk, we are taking steps to close the pay gap. Beginning in 2019, we will institute the Restricting Information on Salaries and Earnings Act (RISE Act), which I signed last month. RISE will reshape pay negotiations to focus on applicants’ experience, qualifications and the responsibilities of the new position, by making it illegal to inquire about salary history. This will be a significant step toward stopping the perpetuation of wage inequity for those who have been historically and systematically underpaid.
As I’ve often witnessed in the past, doing the right thing reverberates beyond the immediate scope of action. In this case, the economic benefits reach far beyond those whom this act targets. Closing the pay gap in Suffolk will result in an annual net spending increase of approximately $664 million, increasing the county’s total economic output by an estimated $1.14 billion.
One of the best parts of my job as a public servant is being able to help right the wrongs of the past and continuing to make Suffolk a better place for all. With the help of my colleagues in the legislature, the RISE Act brings us one step closer.