New York City Council District Staffers Have A Gender Pay Gap

Supermajority Education Fund

January 2, 2020

Female staffers who work in New York City Council district offices have pay disparities with male staffers, according to the New York Daily News, which examined the salaries of 320 staffers, 191 of whom are female and 129 of whom are male staffers. The report found that female staffers make $56,020 on average each year, and male staffers make $60,578 a year, which amounts to a 7.5 percent pay gap. 

The salaries of district staffers, who communicate directly with constituents to ensure they have access to services in their district, are set by individual lawmakers. The news of the gender pay gap comes in light of district staffers’ November announcement of their intent to organize their workplaces and unionize.

Zara Nasir, a council staffer who is part of the unionizing effort, told Supermajority News that staffers had considered unionizing for some time, but were spurred to action when the City Council’s ethics committee voted to charge Councilman Andy King (D) with retaliation, disorderly conduct, sexual harassment, and conflict of interest in August, then suspended him for 30 days and fined him $15,000 for various ethics violations in October.

Some district staffers thought King should have been fired instead of suspended, and the anger “that once again the Council chose one of their own over the well-being of staff,” prompted staffers to launch their campaign to unionize, Nasir said.

Nasir said that although it’s not the case in every office, some staffers are working a lot more than 40 hours a week and going to weekend meetings while they make $35,000 a year.

“It calls into question whether the council is even meeting minimum wage laws because people have such low salaries and are working such long hours,” Nasir said.

Nasir said they’re not ready to announce the number of people who have signed union cards and that they will continue to do a card check after the holidays, but that they’re confident part of the district staff will ultimately be unionized. 

When asked what is behind the gender pay gap, Nasir said that overall, the work of district staffers is the type of work that is undervalued in general.

“There is work in Council that is frankly feminized work. It’s care work. It’s customer service work,” Nasir said. “It’s work that tends to be done by women and … There’s a lot of emotional labor that goes into it as well. I think those folks are the lowest paid and most overworked, and I don’t think it’s like a coincidence. This work is devalued both because of the people who are doing it but also because of the kind of work it is.”

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s (D) spokesperson, Jennifer Fermino, told the Daily News that Johnson “encourages his colleagues to address the gender pay disparity found in the same analysis of District Offices. There’s always room to improve, and we will continue to try and seek ways to empower women.”