Midstate businesses serve coffee with a splash of stats

Sue Pera, Cornerstone Coffeehouse owner. (Photo: Maria Yohn Nease)

Customers who stopped in to buy a cup of coffee at three midstate coffeehouses may have noticed that their coffee sleeves were decorated with statistics related to the gender wage gap.

That’s because the three local businesses took part on April 2 in a national campaign to highlight Equal Pay Day.

It’s the second time Camp Hill-based Cornerstone Coffeehouse joined the campaign, and it was among over 40 coffee shops, restaurants and small businesses that participated in 12 states across the nation. Cornerstone wasn’t alone this year, however, as it was joined by newcomers Harvest Moon Bagel Co. and The Limerick Neighborhood Delicatessen, both in Lancaster County.

The coffee sleeve campaign was spearheaded in 2018 by MomsRising and Main Street Alliance, two national advocacy groups that aim to close the gender wage gap by promoting legislation such as paid family and medical leave. This year, the organizations distributed 10,000 coffee sleeves and 9,000 napkins to participating businesses across the nation.

Each coffee sleeve and napkin contained statistics about the wage gap and ways that it can be addressed, according to Karen Showalter, MomsRising senior campaign director and Pennsylvania director.

Although the Equal Pay Act barring gender-based discrimination in the workforce was signed into law in 1963, there are still loopholes that can allow discrimination to seep through, Showalter said. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women earn 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, up by 59 cents when President John F. Kennedy signed the bill into law.

“It’s great, but it doesn’t have enough teeth,” she said.

Gender wage gap statistics were printed on the coffee sleeves handed out to customers.(Photo: Maria Yohn Nease)

Equal Pay Day was started by the National Committee on Pay Equity in 1996 to raise awareness about the wage gap. It’s held the second Tuesday of April each year because that’s the month when women catch up to men by earning the amount men earned the previous year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

It’s also held on a Tuesday because that’s when women earn the same amount a man earned the previous week, according to the Committee.

Showalter explained that the coffee sleeve campaign is a way to educate the public about gender inequality in the workforce without “getting in their face” about it.

“It’s a gentle nudge in their day,” she said.

The campaign supports the Paycheck Fairness Act as one solution to close the gap, Showalter said, because it addresses loopholes that can limit salaries and advancement opportunities for women.

The bill would prohibit employers from using salary history to establish salaries, protect against retaliation for discussing pay with colleagues and require that employers prove that gender-based pay disparities are job-related and necessary.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill on March 27 in a 242-187 vote but still needs Senate approval.

Showalter said that the campaign also supports policy reforms such as paid family and medical leave to address the gap.

Cornerstone customers Susan Dworsak of Lancaster and Alessandra Perkins of Camp Hill were unaware of Equal Pay Day before seeing the sleeves on their coffee cups. (Photo: Maria Yohn Nease)

Sue Pera, owner of Cornerstone Coffeehouse at 2133 Market St., said she is passionate about gender-based employment discrimination because she was once a victim of it.

Pera hopes millennials will achieve what her generation, the baby boomers, could not and close the wage gap.

“I have a lot of hope in them. They’re not afraid to speak. I don’t want them to lose that vibrancy,” she said.

Chelsea Zawis, owner of Harvest Moon Bagel Co., at 47 N. Queen St., said that this year’s event was the first opportunity for her business to join in the campaign. The shop opened six months ago.

“It’s something we feel strongly about and want to support,” she said.

It’s also the first time Limerick Neighborhood Delicatessen, at 601 N. Lime St., has participated.

Owner Michael Sirianni noted that offering equal wages benefits businesses because it helps them avoid the expenses of employee turnover. Also, boosting wages for single mothers helps entire families, he said.

“One of the easiest ways to bring people out of poverty is to pay equal wages,” he said.

MomsRising is a grassroots organization established in 2006 to promote economic security for women and families. The nonprofit advocates for paid family leave, earned sick days, affordable childcare and an end to wage and hiring discrimination.

Main Street Alliance is a national network of small-business coalitions that advocate for public policy issues pertaining to local economies and the workforce. It was established in 2008, according to its website.