Established in 1979, the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) is an alliance of women’s, civil-rights, religious, educational, professional, legal, and labor-related organizations claiming that female employees throughout the United States are routinely and systematically paid less than males with equivalent workloads and responsibilities. The Committee states that in 1963, when the Equal Pay Act was signed, “women made 59 cents on average for every dollar earned by men…. By 2009, women earned 77 cents to men’s dollar, a narrowing of the wage gap by less than half a cent a year.” Over a working lifetime, says NCPE, “this wage disparity costs the average American woman and her family an estimated $700,000 to $2 million, impacting Social Security benefits and pensions.”
Asserting that “differences in education, experience or time in the workforce” account for only a minute portion of the gender wage gap, NCPE contends that most of the gap is directly “attributable to discrimination.” “Certain jobs pay less simply because they are held by women and people of color,” the Committee says. By NCPE’s telling, chief among the “historically … undervalued” fields into which “many women and people of color are still segregated,” are clerical, nursing, teaching, and service-related jobs. The solution to this injustice, says NCPE, is for Congress to pass “pay equity” legislation that would “eliminat[e] sex and race discrimination in the wage-setting system.”
In an effort to promote its “pay equity” mission as aggressively as possible, NCPE produces numerous fact sheets highlighting the perspectives it wishes to disseminate to the public. Further, the Committee cites research by the Center for American Progress that likewise focuses on “the persistent career wage gap” between male and female workers.
In 1996 NCPE originated the concept of “Equal Pay Day” as “a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men’s and women’s wages.” Generally falling sometime in April, Equal Pay Day indicates how far into each new year the average woman must work in order to earn an amount that, when added to her previous year’s pay, makes her cumulative earnings (over a period of some 15 or 16 months) equivalent to what her male counterpart earned during a 12-month period.
In 2012, NCPE’s Equal Pay Day fell on April 17. President Barack Obama gave official recognition to that date and its significance, echoing the Committee’s assertion that “women who worked full-time earned only 77 percent of what their male counterparts did.” “The pay gap was even greater for African American and Latina women,” added Obama, “with African American women earning 64 cents and Latina women earning 56 cents for every dollar earned by a Caucasian man.”
NCPE strongly supported President Obama’s January 2009 signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which expanded the statute of limitations for filing equal-pay lawsuits.
NCPE is chaired by the American Library Association‘s Michele Leber, who sets the tone for the Committee’s work by claiming that “the more an occupation is dominated by women, the less it pays.” NCPE’s treasurer is Connie Cordovilla, who also serves as associate director of the American Federation of Teachers‘ Human Rights and Community Relations Department. A noteworthy former official of NCPE is its onetime executive director Susan Bianchi-Sand, who in 1996 was a co-founder of the Campaign for America’s Future.
Among NCPE’s 95 member organizations are 9 to 5, National Association of Working Women; the AFL-CIO; AFSCME; the American Association of University Professors; the American Federation of Teachers; the American Library Association; Feminist Majority; MomsRising; the NAACP; the National Council of Women’s Organizations; the National Education Association; the National Organization for Women; the National Women’s Law Center; the Older Women’s League; and the YWCA. To view a complete list of NCPE’s organizational members, click here.
For additional information on NCPE, click here.
 Contrary to NCPE’s claims about wage discrimination, a large body of empirical research shows that male-female pay inequalities are due entirely to the employment choices that women make volitionally. When men and women work at jobs where their titles, responsibilities, qualifications, and levels of experience are equivalent, their pay is equal as well.