Editorial: COVID-19 lays bare inequality

Column By Dianne Post

The entire country is consumed with COVID-19 issues including the medical and economic aspects as well as the impact on culture and most importantly on our democracy. Unspoken is that the crisis lays bare the inequality in America for women. That inequality extends to infrastructure, employment, insurance, medical care, the shredded safety net, and much more. 

In many crisis situations, the first responders are police and fire. In the U.S. 88% of police are male and their average pay is $51,000; 96% of firefighters are male and their average pay is $50,000. The average salary in the U.S. as a whole is $81,000 with $60,000 take home while the median income is $63,000. Congressional salaries are $174,000 per year for senators and congresspersons and the retired ones get $75,000 per year – for life. It could be argued that police and fire do a more important job than some of the sitting senators and congress members.   

But in today’s pandemic, health care workers and grocery store cashiers, cleaning personnel and bank tellers have become the first responders. Among health care workers,  91% of nurses are women and their average pay is $75,000; 90% of nurse’s aides are women and their average pay is $30/hour so based on a 40-hour week, they make $57,600 annually.  Housekeeping staff, so vital to cleaning hospitals, are 89% women and are paid an average of $25,000 per year. The caregivers to the elderly and ill are 96% women who make  $11.16/hour for an annual wage of $21,427.  Bank tellers are 85% women with an average pay of $10/hour or $19,200 per year.  And last but certainly not least are grocery store cashiers who are 71% women with an average pay of $9.53/hour or $18,297 a year – less than a third of the national average.  

While bankers and billionaires, CEOs and mega-church pastors along with senators who engage in insider trading walk away with more cash to stuff somewhere offshore while they pay no taxes to provide the very infrastructure that got them rich in the first place. They are not the ones stepping up in this crisis.  No, it’s women sitting at home in Iowa or Utah madly sewing masks for healthcare workers on their home machines while home-schooling children furloughed out of classes and caring for elderly parents who need groceries delivered.  

As if we hadn’t enough reasons, this illustrates yet again why the 28th Amendment, The Equal Rights Amendment, finally passed on Jan. 27, 2020 is absolutely necessary for this country to right the wrong it did over 200 years ago when women were deliberately excluded from full citizenship. Women, like African- Americans and Native Americans, have paid for it ever since. Enough. The administration should drop its opposition to the ERA and order the national archivist to certify the ratification of Virginia as it has of Nevada that ratified in 2017 and Illinois that ratified in 2018. Women have always borne more than their fair share of work, family, and community. It’s time to recognize that and ensure that constitutional equality is granted to all.

Take action. Call Senator Martha McSally at 602-952-2410 and ask her to co-sponsor S.J.Res 6 that would eliminate or extend the artificial timeline. Call Attorney General Mark Brnovich at 602-542-5045 to urge him to sign Arizona on to an amicus brief in favor of the ratification of the ERA.