Assembly Candidate Aileen Rizo’s Fight for Equal Pay Inspires Women in the Central Valley and Beyond

Promoting pay and eliminating the gender pay gap is more important now than ever. Recently, a friend, who works in a local corporate office, shared with me that she had accidentally discovered she is paid less than her new male subordinate despite her position as a manager and holding a college degree. It angered me to know that a local human resources department would consciously pay a female manager less than her male coworker with a lower position. My friend is not alone in this discrimination. In 2016, research showed that working-class women in the United States were paid 20 percent less than their male counterparts.  

A local champion for Latina women and education has made advancements in the fight for equal pay. Fresno Educator and a State Assembly District 23 candidate, Aileen Rizo, sued her employer, the Fresno County office of Education when she discovered that she was paid less than her male co-worker. When she complained to her human resources department, the office stated that the difference in pay stemmed from the male coworker’s prior salary which was higher than Aileen’s previous job. In the case of Aileen Rizo v. Fresno County Office of Education, Mrs. Rizo testified before the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee to argue that prior salary alone cannot justify the wage gap. The committee agreed in a 4-0 vote this year. This was a huge victory to local education efforts in the Central Valley and has already caused a domino effect in the nation. The case has caused states such as Massachusetts, California, Delaware, Oregon, and Puerto Rico to pass laws that block employers from requesting an applicant’s prior salary. This case is also important for education efforts because it will open doors for college educated women entering the workforce to be treated as equals.

I am inspired by Mrs. Rizo’s courage whose actions show a stance for equality. As she progresses towards the general elections in November, I urge girls and women in the Central Valley to stay informed on her continued efforts on education, equal pay, and to find solidarity in their rights. “The world is maniable,” she stated, “when we stand together against injustice, change does happen.”

If you’re concerned that you may be a victim of sex-based pay discrimination, or if you just want to know more about how the EPA works, please visit The American Association of University Women (AAUW) website for more information.

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Eliana Oropeza

Eliana Oropeza

Eliana Oropeza is a first-generation Mexican American college graduate born and raised in the Central Valley. Eliana works in health education and is currently working with select Central Valley primary care Provider offices and promotoras to implement the Diabetes Self-Management Education program for adults with type 2 diabetes. Eliana has also worked with the Fresno County Tobacco Prevention Program and the Babies First Program in the implementation of tobacco-free policies and the promotion of health and well-being of mothers, babies and families. Eliana is a graduate of the University of California, Irvine with a degree in Public Health Sciences and a minor in International Studies. She is currently pursuing her Masters in Public Health through the San Jose State University. On her spare time, she enjoys hiking, video production, and blogging about health, women’s rights, education, and environmental justice issues.

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