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The Skanner News
Published: 01 October 2012

Following up on its crusade against pay disparities statewide, the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) and the Oregon Council on Civil Rights (OCCR) host a Community Forum on Pay Equity Tuesday, Oct. 2, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the AFL-CIO Oregon Labor Center at 3645 SE 32nd Ave.

The idea is to create an event where people can tell their stories and be heard directly by OCCR members, as well as BOLI Commissioner Brad Avakian, who will be on hand to talk about pay disparity in Oregon. Participants are encouraged to come with your ideas on how to change the pay disparity equation.

A report released earlier this year showed a 23 percent gap in wages between men and women across the state. Data shows that African-American and Latina women face the biggest pay gaps, including an almost 35 percent gap between Black women and white men, and an almost 50 percent gap between Latina women and white men.

"Congress passed an Equal Pay Act in 1963, and the wage gap has closed about half-a-cent per year (since then)," says Oregon Labor and Industries Commissioner Brad Avakian. "Oregon isn't going to wait another 50 years to see equal pay for equal work. And we aren't going to ignore the reality that racial disparity is part of the problem and should be addressed to combat all forms of pay disparity."

The OCCR, created by Avakian in 2009, joined a coalition of sponsors for legislation in 2011 that would have strengthened Oregon's equal pay law by applying it to all protected classes, not just gender. http://oregonaction.org/our-issues/equal-pay-for-equal-work/

"We want to attack the roots of pay disparity in very targeted ways," said Dawn Holt, OCCR co-chair, in a statement on Equal Pay Day last April. "The action plan that we develop should be a blueprint for other states to tackle this lingering injustice, not just in terms of new enforcement powers but through pro-active, cooperative work with Oregon employers to craft lasting solutions."

"Equal pay for equal work is a principle that Oregonians believe in and want to see realized," Avakian says. "We can take real steps forward, in collaboration with Oregon's business community, to ultimately close all of the wage gaps in our state."

Meetings of OCCR are open to the public and notices are posted on the state's public meetings calendar. The council's field hearings, including the Tuesday forum, are designed to learn from and be responsive to Oregonians' real-life experiences with pay disparity, state staff says.

The Council is interested in hearing from Oregon communities on their experiences, but also seeks feedback on other countries' efforts to end pay inequity, including Sweden, Quebec, Ontario, Switzerland, and Canada.

Find more info on the OCCR website here, including a link where you can provide direct feedback on your experience with pay disparities pay in Oregon.

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