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The Civil Rights Act of 1964

The Civil Rights Act of 1964

This year marks the 53rd year of one of the most important pieces of legislation ever enacted into law, and that is the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  This significant piece of legislation brought to an end, (by decree) any form of discrimination which would take place in any public arena, for example, it would be unlawful to discriminate against someone because of the color of their skin in a restaurant and to refuse to serve them, or refusing entrance into a public place because of your skin color. You could not refuse a potential customer accommodations at a motel/hotel based solely upon their race, or religious affiliation.  

There were many people responsible for passing The Civil Rights Act, but two are most prominent in this fight.  One cannot mention the Civil Rights Act in the same breath without mentioning Dr. Martin Luther King. It was his vision that created such a movement in this country, equal rights for everyone.  Also, LBJ,   (Lyndon Baines Johnson), our  36th American President whose political genius, coyness, and tenacity , working and maneuvering between   both sides of the political aisle,   (republican and democrat), ensured passage of what many at that time called impossible, the enactment  of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Another Act that was passed just one year prior was the Equal Pay Act of 1963.  The Equal Pay Act basically said employers cannot discriminate on pay, other words; pay must be equal to both men and women who are working the same or similar job, and who have the same or very close knowledge, skills and abilities required for the satisfactory completion of said job.  Title V11 of the Civil Rights Act also had language that supported the worker, stating it is against the law to discriminate towards any one regarding employment based upon race, color, gender, and or religious  affiliation.  

While these acts have gone a long way to ensure fairness in our American system, and to discourage practices of discrimination, unfortunately discrimination is still very much alive and well in the United States.  Just because we are a land of laws does not mean that everybody will comply with those laws. There are plenty of labor infraction lawsuits claiming discrimination by the plaintiff clogging up the court dockets in this country. In fact, it is no secret that Wal-Mart the largest retailer in the world has literally thousands of lawsuits filed by current as well as former employees claiming numerous labor and equity pay infractions that are protected under Title V11 and the Equal Pay Act. It may be hard to enact legislation, but, apparently, even harder to change people’s minds and behaviors even in the 21st century.

From Wikipedia, titled, Gender Pay Gap, American economist David Neumark Professor of Economics at the University of California at Irvine argues -“discrimination by employers tends to steer women into lower paying occupations and men into higher paying occupations.”

It is mind boggling to me that after 54 years since the Equal Pay Act became the law of this land, we are still dealing with pay inequities particularly in regards to women.  On average, the American women laborer only makes 83-85 cents on the dollar compared to men who earn 100 cents on the dollar for the same job.   Once we look a bit closer at specific demographic groups of men and women such as African American and Hispanic, and men and women over the age of 50, the pay inequities spike dramatically. I am sure that most female students reading this Op-Ed are quite surprised because from my research many younger students do not know this.  My question to you then is this, how many women do you believe want to go through life making  83-85 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts making 100 cents on the dollar for the same job?  I bet there is not one of you who would!

In an article by Susan Milligan , from the Pew Charitable Trust, titled Size of Gender Pay Gap Varies By State and Job , Milligan says, “ female workers don’t need to be told what numerous studies have concluded- women on average are paid less than men, even when they are doing the same job.

Government jobs seem to be much more in line (equally) with pay, than private jobs for both genders; this is directly related to the large number of public workers who are unionized.  Therefore, we can expect that for the most part, women and men mail carriers for instance are making the same, of course one must consider length of employment as well, which would skew salaries.

In the meantime, I do have some advice for the students, the same advice I use to tell my students when I was instructing. You will be the new doctors, business men and women, politicians, lawyers, restaurant owners, professors,  engineers,  accountants , electricians , truck drivers, customer service representatives, news commentators, and on and on and on.  My question is, do you want fairness?  If you do, stay vigilant on the ever-changing political landscape that considers new legislation to provide that fairness.   Be aware of what your rights are as an employee and familiarize yourself with the basic state and federal labor laws that protect workers of this country, as well as all anti-discrimination laws.  All of this can be easily found by doing a simple Google search.

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