More than 70 businesses, organizations, clubs and religious groups in the Capital Region are rallying behind a package of women’s equality issues being advanced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the waning months of the state’s legislative session.
Representatives from the coalition assembled outside of Proctors on Thursday morning to voice their support for legislation addressing fair pay, sexual harassment, discrimination, reproductive rights and other issues. Cuomo unveiled his 10 different issues during his State of the State address in January.
Rowie Taylor, executive director of the YWCA of NorthEastern NY, said the package will create a level playing field. She said the health, safety and potential of an individual shouldn’t be based on gender.
Taylor said women in New York earn 84 percent of what men earn, are five times more likely to be sexually harassed than men and are twice as likely as men to live in poverty. “In New York state, we have the power to solve many of these problems by simply amending state law,” she said.
Assemblyman Phil Steck, D-Colonie, said in a phone interview on Thursday that he supports all of the tenets of Cuomo’s plan. He said the entire proposal should be introduced as one package, which he expects the Assembly would pass.
A potential stumbling block, though, could be the state Senate, with Senate Republicans expressing some reservations about the proposal. The chamber is controlled by a coalition of Senate Republicans and a handful of independent Senate Democrats.
State Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, noted that none of the proposals have actually been introduced as legislation, so it was hard to judge their merit.
He said that parts of the package would be easily passed, but some of it might be controversial, like the part about abortion rights.
Part of the problem, Farley said, is trying to enforce certain laws, like equal pay, which already exist. “Everyone wants equal pay for equal work,” he said. “But how do you do it?”
Regardless, he added, “It’s a very bold agenda.”
During Thursday’s rally on behalf of the package, people from Ambition Cafe, the Katbird Shop, Daly Funeral Homes and Sondra’s Fine Jewelry spoke.
Also speaking was Congregation Gates of Heaven Rabbi Matt Cutler, who said these ideas were very basic: “We’re surprised that it’s not done.”
He argued that from a theological perspective, with men and women being made in God’s image, people should be treated the same regardless of gender.
“As a father, I tell my 14-year-old daughter that she can aspire to be whatever she wants to be. As a father, I encourage her to stand up to her older brothers … and not to follow in their footsteps,” Cutler said. “That path should not be defined by less pay, less adequate services and discrimination because of her gender.”
The group plans on lobbying their legislators to support this package. Similar groups were formed around the state and also rallied on Thursday.