Barbara Kruschel: “It was a big step up for me. I never thought I would be able to move out of an apartment.”

“We were just scraping,” says retiree Barbara Kruschel, who was a member of Local 390 at the Cambridge Regional Treatment Center. She was a single mom, raising a 6-year-old. “I worked a lot of overtime just to pay the bills, utilities, the babysitter. Having the extra money meant I didn’t have to dig as hard for school lunches and such. I didn’t have to struggle as much.”

Equity raises eventually allowed Kruschel to simply enjoy life a little more. They helped her move out of an apartment and afford a mobile home. “And we went to Wisconsin Dells on vacation. That was nice.”

It was similar for Monica Shockency, of Local 56 in the Minneapolis Public Schools. “Just day to day wasn’t as stressful, because you’d be able to have this little bit of extra money to divide out, to pay the bills, to feed the family.”

Lifelong impact
Shockency’s husband was out of work at the time, “so it was just my salary for the four us,” she says. “At the time it came through, it made a big difference for us personally. And because it was on the base, it just went up from there.”

Ruth O’Dell’s husband also was out of work when her pay went up from $6.81 an hour to $7.42 and then to $8.39. “It doesn’t sound like much now, but it was a big difference,” says O’Dell, who was in Local 2796 and a clerk typist at Minneapolis Community College.

The equity raises let the O’Dells start a college fund for their two daughters and, eventually, to buy a new used car. Not to be forgotten, O’Dell points out, “Pay equity helped my pension a lot.”

Local 56\’s Monica Shockency remembers the difference pay equity raises made when they first kicked in during the 1980s.

More than the money
The equity raises did more than boost women’s paychecks, Shockency says. “Before then, the female-dominated positions were looked at as just – I don’t want to say lower class, but it felt like they weren’t acknowledged as much. With the pay equity, you could tell in people’s attitudes. They felt like they were being recognized as being important, that their job meant something.”

This article is adapted from the March-April 2013 edition of AFSCME Council 5’s Stepping Up magazine.

For more information
Attend the free Untold Stories program:

Equal Pay for Equal Work
Wednesday, April 24, 7 p.m.
Highland Park Library, Village View Room
1974 Ford Parkway, Saint Paul

Fifty years ago, the federal government passed the Equal Pay Act, requiring that women be paid the same as men if they’re doing the same job. Thirty years ago, Minnesota went further. The state implemented landmark legislation to erase the pay gap between men and women in the public sector. It succeeded! Our panel talks about how it happened, and why it hasn’t happened more often. Featuring Nina Rothchild, head of the state Department of Employee Relations when the law was implemented; Bonnie Watkins, of the Pay Equity Coalition of Minnesota; and Peter Benner, of AFSCME, which pushed the legislation, then made sure it worked.

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