By Gena Goodman-Campbell

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Today women only earn 79 cents for every dollar made by men, and for women of color the gap is even bigger. It can be hard to understand how the gender wage gap persists even as states such as Oregon have pursued additional legislative solutions to pay inequity. That’s why I appreciated The Bulletin’s recent coverage of how Oregon grocery workers have found women are being shortchanged by a large local employer, Fred Meyer.

The article explained how Fred Meyer’s pay scheduling practices are contributing to the pay gap between men and women. This chain owned by Kroger, a corporation that profits hundreds of billions of dollars annually, has developed a troubling practice when it comes to determining employee wages. When hired, workers are either placed in “Schedule A” or “Schedule B.” The average rate of pay in “Schedule A”, at $17.22 per hour, is almost 25% higher on average than the average hourly wage of $13.69 in “Schedule B.” Though many of the jobs in “Schedule A” are nearly identical to jobs in “Schedule B,” such as meat packing versus seafood, women are inexplicably twice as likely to be placed in lower paying “Schedule B” jobs.

For the average worker, that discrepancy between pay schedules adds up to a little over $200 per month and around $122,000 total over their career with Fred Meyer. For a Bend family, $200 a month could make the difference in being able to find a home you can afford. It could be the difference between just getting by and having nutritious food, school clothes and basic comforts for growing kids. It could be a car payment or enough money to save up to buy a home. For many in our community $200 a month is a step up the ladder toward security. We cannot let working women make a fraction of what they deserve. We must call for change.

Although worker productivity is at an all-time high, wages are not keeping pace. Workers are not seeing their share of the profits generated by this increased productivity. And what little money does trickle down to workers is not being evenly divided.

The wage gap exists in a wide array of industries — from professional athletes like the U.S. women’s soccer team to service workers in our community, women in this country see smaller paychecks than their male peers. This disparity between men and women’s earnings is not projected to close until 2058, almost a century after the Equal Pay Act was signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963.

While it can sometimes be hard to point to specific ways to close the gender wage gap, the example of inequity between pay schedules at Fred Meyer shows that there are tangible changes that can be made to ensure women earn the same wage as men for the same work.

I am proud to stand with working families in calling for pay equity at Fred Meyer. There is no reason for the female members of our community to be assigned a lesser value. We are equals and need to be treated and paid as such.

As a leader in this community, I want to make sure we do all we can to close the pay gap for working women now and for the future of our daughters.

The example of the wage gap between men and women at Fred Meyer stores shows how historic inequities persist, even when employers are not intentionally paying women less than men. Fred Meyer, please right the wrongs in your hiring practices. Take a hard look at your values as an iconic Oregon company. Fix the gap between women and men and set an example for others to follow.

— Gena Goodman-Campbell lives in Bend. She is a Bend city councilor, but the views expressed are her own.

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