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Employees respect political process to support equal pay for equal work

BILLINGS, April 11, 2014 –Current and retired Rocky Mountain College teachers helped to lead Billings members of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) in lobbying efforts on April 8 that encourage recent federal efforts to create equal pay for equal work. 

In 1963, President John Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act that reads, “no employer shall discriminate between employees on the basis of sex.” Yet in 2014 Montana, as Tom Lutey wrote in the April 8 Billings Gazette, women now receive 76 cents for each dollar a man receives for comparable work. Systemic cultural and social factors, rather than purposeful discrimination, create most of this disparity. 

The 2014 “catch-up day,” when women on average stop working extra days that men don’t work to receive identical pay, was April 8. Female median earnings in Montana are 66.7 cents for each male dollar.

Three longtime RMC employees, Services for Academic Success Director Mary Reiter, SAS Specialist and Associate Professor of Mathematics Robyn Cummings, and retired PE and Health Professor Nancy Downing are current president and vice-presidents of the Billings AAUW. AAUW leaders visited the offices of Montana’s U.S. representative and senators Tuesday to discuss support for enforcement of the Equal Pay Act. Any woman with at least a two-year degree can join AAUW, whose mission advances equity for girls and women, and 11 members in Billings are current or retired RMC women faculty and administrators. 

These RMC employees are used to working to remedy disadvantages of socially and culturally based discrimination. The federally funded Services for Academic Success (SAS) program at RMC provides comprehensive student support services for low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and students with disabilities. SAS helps to level the college academic playing field for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Identically, activists for equal pay for equal work try to remedy discriminatory worker compensation that stems from cultural economic disadvantages in local workplaces, such as being female.

Action against inequity is a bedrock value at RMC. The 2013-14 AAUW scholarship to an RMC student went to Maryrose Milkovich (’15) of Clyde Park, Mont., who has been a residence assistant, peer instructor, student ambassador, and Enactus member at the College.

Downing said a highlight for her is “discovering how accessible our political leaders are in Montana – our governor and our congressional delegation.” 

Students, though, may not have as much of an issue with gender wage inequity, because their elders have led the charge. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that among 16- to 34-year-olds nationally, women in 2013 earn 90 percent of men’s pay for identical work.