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Metro Roundup, Jan. 31

Metro Editor
Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Bills introduced to increase minimum wage, close gender pay gap

Rhode Island’s progressive Democrats launched a coordinated campaign to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour during a press conference Tuesday. Titled “Fight for $15 and Fair Pay,” the campaign began when legislators, workers and advocacy groups gathered at the State House to introduce two new pieces of legislation.

The minimum wage bill, sponsored by Sen. Jeanine Calkin, D-Warwick and Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, D-Providence, aims to gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2023; thereafter, the wage would rise with inflation.

The Fair Pay bill, sponsored by Sen. Gayle Goldin, D-Providence and Rep. Susan Donovan, D-Bristol, would remove hiring practices that depress wages for women and people of color.

“Hardworking Rhode Islanders need to earn enough to pay the rent, put food on the table and provide the stability and security that a family needs to thrive,” read the R.I. Fight for $15 and Fair Pay Bill Introduction and Kickoff Facebook page.

Rhode Island’s minimum wage is currently $10.10 per hour, which puts the state almost $3 above the Federal Minimum Wage of $7.25 an hour. The state’s minimum wage was last changed in 2017, when the General Assembly approved a measure that increased the minimum wage from $9.60 to $10.10 beginning Jan. 1, 2018 and then to $10.50 per hour beginning Jan. 1, 2019.

Pay in Rhode Island is not as high, on average, for workers who identify as female than for those who identify as male, according to a 2017 study by the nonpartisan National Partnership for Women and Families. The median annual pay for a woman who holds a full-time, year-round job is $44,050, while that of a man is $51,368. This difference means that women are paid 86 cents for every dollar paid to men. Further, black women in Rhode Island are paid 58 cents and Hispanic women are paid 51 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, the study reported.

Supporters of the bills include the Center for Justice, Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Economic Progress Institute, Jobs with Justice and Planned Parenthood.

Report of Rhode Island State Police looks toward the future

State Police Superintendent Ann Assumpico outlined measures to recruit and retain women and people of color in the police force, as recommended by the results of an outside assessment of the state’s law enforcement agency.

The assessment details steps to increase representation that are centered on recruiting, the promotion process and administrative actions, stated the Focused Assessment of the R.I. State Police, issued to Assumpico in December 2017. The recommendations came after a review of General Orders, interviews with relevant personnel and an anonymous employee survey on existing promotion and disciplinary processes.

Assumpico, the first woman in charge of the state’s law enforcement agency, was sworn in after the State Police’s 2016 class provoked “a general sense of disappointment given the underwhelming graduation rate of women and persons of color in the new class,” the assessment stated. Assumpico has also experienced difficulties retaining minority and women recruits, she said Tuesday.

This year, 44 percent of the 1,403 applicants for the training academy were minorities or women compared to 35 percent in last recruitment drive in 2014.

The report comes as Republican gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung criticized Governor Gina Raimondo for “taking her eye off the ball” when it comes to crime, as detailed in a 15-second web video released Monday.

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