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Villa of Hope raises minimum wage

Christina Gullo, left, with Wynndy Turner at an event announcing plans to raise Villa of Hope's minimum wage to $15 per hour. (provided)
Christina Gullo, left, with Wynndy Turner at an event announcing plans to raise Villa of Hope’s minimum wage to $15 per hour. (provided)

Rochester’s Villa of Hope is the latest nonprofit to raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour. The new wages will be effective June 28, 2021.

Villa of Hope officials  said Tuesday that the move was made to reflect pay equity in the job market and to attract and retain the “best front-line workers” for the people the agency serves.

“We are emerging from one of the most disruptive times in our country’s recent history,” said Villa of Hope President and CEO Christina Gullo. “Later this year we will be opening Rochester’s first community-based detox center, which will also be the first to have beds available for adolescents in addition to adults. The stress and anxiety throughout COVID has put a demand on our services and we need to remain strong and ready to answer that call for our community. And it is the same community whose support is making this possible.”

Villa of Hope employs some 370 individuals. Officials noted that 69 families will be impacted by the increase in wages, the cost of which will be $158,000 to the agency. The total cost to the organization will be $318,000, which includes the cost of raising manager’s wages to reach pay equity for their added experience, education and responsibility.

Funding for initiatives like wage increases often is a barrier as there are pre-determined rates for services and unfunded mandates that limit human service organizations from investing in the future of their employees and programs, officials noted.

“Villa of Hope has not received increased rates for our services or special grants to cover the cost of these wage increases,” Gullo said. “We are working with our legislators and advocating with New York state and our funding partners to help find dollars for these critical increases. Until then we are dependent on and grateful for our donors and community supporters to make this happen.”

Villa of Hope offers addiction recovery, workforce development, behavioral health and residential programs. The agency partners with individuals, families and communities to rebuild relationships, recover potential and renew hope for the future. Formerly St. Joseph’s Villa, the nonprofit has served Rochester since 1942.

“This has been a true journey to get to this point,” said Villa of Hope Chief Human Resources and Diversity Officer Wynndy Turner. “Driven by our understanding of the value of the work our 370 employees do, the need for pay equity in our community and within the Villa and the rapidly increasing demand for mental health and substance use services, we knew this could wait no longer.”

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Dozens rally here for pay equity

Three months and two days. That’s how much longer women had to work to earn the same as their male counterparts did in 2018. So on April 2, women around the country, including dozens in Rochester, demonstrated to bring awareness to the pay gap that exists between men and woman.

equal payRepresentatives from the National Organization for Women, the American Association of University Women, Ibero-American Action League, League of Women Voters and more joined Rochester women and men Tuesday at Workers United to rally against inequity and in favor of legislation to close the gap.

“It is time to dig deeper, to push for solutions and ensure that all women in New York have equal pay,” said Rochester councilmember Jacklyn Ortiz to dozens of individuals who showed up wearing green and carrying signs declaring “Equal Pay for Equal Work.”

When New York’s state budget passed on Sunday, elected officials opted not to include legislation banning the usage of salary history and implementing equal pay for work of equivalent value, Ortiz noted. But, she said, “we will continue to fight” to pass Senate bill 3692A and Assembly bill 5308, bipartisan bills prohibiting employers from seeking salary history.

“If we really want to achieve true equal pay for equal work, it’s going to take all of us working together to raise awareness and to keep this issue in the forefront,” said Daniele Lyman-Torres, commissioner of the Department of Recreation and Youth Services for the City of Rochester. “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.’ We have to ascend the stairs we cannot see. The leaders before us helped build the staircase we stand on today and it is up to us to carry on building this staircase, building it right through the glass ceiling.”

The gender pay gap varies from region to region and from study to study, but most accounts show that for every one dollar a white, non-Hispanic male earns, women earn 80 cents. Women of color earn even less.

“Champions have fought long and hard for equity in pay, but it’s now time for the one to become the many,” said Gaynelle Weathers, president of the local American Association of University Women. “It is our time to address the pay gap with a chorus of voices in action. For the future, we must encourage our women to be confident, understand their value and negotiate their positions. It is our time.”

A recent study by SurveyMonkey shows that despite reports worldwide about the gender pay gap, roughly a third of men and women say there is no difference in pay by gender. And 47 percent of the survey’s respondents said that obstacles that once made it harder for women to get ahead are now largely gone.

Tuesday’s rally featured a panel of speakers including one male, Action for a Better Community’s Jerome Underwood. He said being there was one of the easiest things he has ever had to do.

“Why? Because I have a belly button,” Underwood said. “I have a mother. I have a wife of 29 years. I have a daughter. I have two sisters. To me it’s a matter of justice. Unequal pay is serious injustice to my mother, my wife, my sisters.”

Underwood said a lot of the inequity is on men.

“Because some of us are signing those checks that are inequitable,” he said. “We need to check ourselves. I want to ask the men in this room to talk to every other man that they know and tell them to fix this. You know why? Because (women are) worth every dollar.”

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer