Providence mulling ‘equal pay task force’ for city employees

Providence City Council chambers. (Photo by Dan McGowan/WPRI 12)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The city of Providence is closer to establishing an “equal pay task force” to review strategies for addressing the wage gap between male and female government employees.

The ordinance creating the permanent seven-member task force won first passage from the City Council Wednesday evening. It must be approved for a second time before it is sent to the desk of Mayor Jorge Elorza.

“The wage gap in America is unacceptable and the government at every level must be proactive and intentional in promoting equal pay for equal work,” Democrat Councilman David Salvatore, a sponsor of the ordinance, said. “The task force will be a conversation starter that provides city officials with best practices, tools and resources to promote and enact equal pay for equal work in Providence.”

An Eyewitness News review of city payroll records shows just 27 of the 100 highest-paid non-school department employees in Providence are female. Salvatore said he wants to analyze data from all city departments as well as contractors.

Salvatore cited a Economic Policy Institute report that found women who worked full-time and year-round in 2016 earned 20% less than their male counterparts as evidence for why the task force is necessary. He said Providence “should model the highest standards of wage equality.”

Under the ordinance, the task force would be comprised of the chairperson and vice chairperson of the Providence Human Relations Commission, an attorney from the city law department and two appointees each from the City Council and mayor’s office. The panel will be required to submit an annual report by Dec. 31 each year.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan