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Why we all deserve equal rights and what we can do about it

This was submitted to The Campanil by Julia Morgan School for Girls student Lucy Helms. She’s a representative of the Girls in Government, Leadership, and Service group at the school.

The Equal Rights Amendment reads: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”

Unfortunately, the amendment has still not been passed, meaning that women in our country do not have equal rights according to our Constitution.

We are a group of sixth, seventh and eighth graders in the Girls in Government, Leadership, and Service Club at Julia Morgan School for Girls in Oakland, CA and we think that’s wrong.

In our class we’ve learned all about equality, injustice and fighting for our rights. Our teachers have taught us that we are strong and powerful and can be whatever we want when we grow up. But how can we really do that if we’re treated differently than our brothers or male peers?

Imagine this. You make $65,000 a year. You have a good job. You have a spouse and a three-year-old girl. You’re happy with your life. One night you’re hanging out with one of your co-workers. You’re talking about work and your co-worker tells you his salary. He makes $80,000 a year. You have the same exact job, and you’ve had the job a year and a half longer. The only difference between you both is that you’re a woman, and your co-worker is a man. “How is that fair?” you ask yourself.

Well, it’s not. And if the ERA was ratified to our Constitution, it would not happen.

In order to be officially added to our Constitution, an amendment must first be passed through Congress and then ratified by three-fourths (or 38) states. In the 1970s, the ERA passed Congress and was sent to the states, and over 10 years it was ratified by 35 of the 38 states it needed. But after that 10 year deadline, the ERA got stuck.

Fortunately, there is a way that the ERA can still be passed! Congress has the power to eliminate that 10 year deadline by passing the Three-State Strategy bill proposed by Congresswoman Jackie Speier and Senator Ben Cardin. That way the ERA would only need to be voted on by three more states in order to be added to our Constitution, instead of having to be voted on by 38 states.

This is not a new idea — in fact, the most recent Amendment to the Constitution took over 200 years to be ratified! Why shouldn’t the ERA be given the same chance?

Women make up more than half of our work force, yet for every dollar a man makes, the average white woman makes $0.78, and the average Asian woman makes $0.88. Not having the ERA affects every woman, but it affects other women of color more. An African-American female makes $0.68 for every dollar a man makes, and a Latina makes $0.57. As a woman, you would stand to lose at least $1 million to $2 million compared to a man with the same job in your lifetime.

With at least 100,000 signatures in favor of ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, we can begin to put more pressure on Congress, after 239 years, to finally pass it. An amendment is more permanent than a bill. Yes, it is easier to pass a bill, but an amendment would make it more set in stone. For an amendment to be terminated, it has to go through the same process it took to become one. It is the only way women can be guaranteed long term equal pay.

As a woman or a man, it is your duty to end this injustice. All girls and women deserve equal pay. You can make a difference. There are only 100,000 signatures needed to begin to get the attention of Congress. This could all be resolved in one year. Don’t just stand by. Every signature counts. Add your signature, and you can make this change. It’s about time. The future of equal pay depends on you.