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Dozens rally for equal pay in Greensburg

Women in Westmoreland County want better pay.

As part of Equal Pay Day, a commemoration of the Equal Pay Act signed into law by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, a contingent of about three dozen people marched to the Westmoreland County Courthouse from the nearby campus of Seton Hill University in Greensburg.

The group, mainly students, held a lunchtime rally on Tuesday to bring attention to the gender-based pay gap they say has plagued the region, which has pay rates for women that are lower than national averages.

"We're really just trying to get the word out. We don't want to enter an unequal work force," said Jessica Rush, 22, of Everett in Bedford County. "First, we want to change the awareness. Then we will have people calling for change."

A study completed in 2008 by a collaborative group, Status of Women in Westmoreland County, found that women in the local work force make 75 percent of what their male counterparts earn.

Westmoreland County is below the national average of 77 percent, according to Ann Emmerling, director of the Blackburn Foundation and a member of the Status of Women group, which includes representatives from the United Way of Westmoreland County, Seton Hill, YWCA of Westmoreland County and Westmoreland Commission for Women and Families.

"We have some real work to do," Emmerling said. "Other communities around the country are more progressive than Westmoreland County."

The report revealed that women from all education levels earned less than men. Westmoreland County women with just some college or an associate degree make just 59 percent of what men earn with the same education, according to the study.

The students, men and woman, yesterday spoke about efforts to close that gap.

Alex Riggenbach, a 22-year-old male psychology major from Blairsville, said the disparity in pay was unfair.

"A lot of these people are in the same classes as I am so they should get paid the same as me," Riggenbach said.

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