Transcript: Iowa small business owner ReShonda Young’s testimony on the Paycheck Fairness Act – April 1, 2014

Partial transcript of the testimony of ReShonda Young, Operations Manager of Alpha Express, Inc. in Waterloo, Iowa, on the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing was held on April 1, 2014:

Chair Mikulski, Ranking Member Alexander, and members of the committee, I want to thank you for the opportunity to testify today and share a small business perspective on pay equity.

My name is ReShonda Young, and I serve as Operations Manager and Corporate Vice President for two family businesses based in Waterloo, Iowa.

Alpha Express is a transportation and delivery company that hauls parts – machine parts, farm equipments – all across United States and into Canada, and Alpha Services is a contracting business that provides maintenance services to companies like John Deere.

Our business is a true family business.

My father started the company 25 years ago, and back then it was just him and one partner. Now, we employ about 50 people.

I’ve also just launched a new business of my own. It’s a gourmet popcorn shop called Popcorn Heaven in Waterloo, Iowa, and we started in February and already have 10 employees.

I worked in Iowa’s insurance sector for more than 10 years. But entrepreneurship is my passion. I guess you can say that small business just runs in my blood.

I want to share with you the story of what happened when I joined my father in the family business 8 years ago.

When I started taking on HR responsibilities, I found an issue with our paychecks. Women were being paid less for the same work.

We had a woman who had been with us for 16 years. She was the one who kept everything in order yet she was only getting paid a little more than half of what male employees were making even though she had a lot more responsibilities.

I knew I had to do something. I believe people should be paid according to the job they’re doing and the value that they bring to a company – nothing less.

I refuse to allow women to be paid less than the value we bring to our company because of our gender.

So I stuck my neck out. I called our accountant and raised the pay of our women workers without authorization.

Now, I love my father. He’s an amazing man and I’ve learned a lot from working with him these past 8 years. I’m most grateful for that.

But when I started working with him, he was 65-years-old and had an “old school” mentality about women in the workplace.

In the end, my father came around to see things as I see them. He recognizes that the women on our team keep the business afloat so equal pay for equal work is one of the commitments we make to our employees. I’m proud of this commitment.

But offering equal pay for equal work isn’t just about doing the right thing; it has a positive impact on our business too. It boosts our employees’ morale and their respect for the business. It also boosts retention.

Cutting down on turnover saves our business money. It also saves us a lot of stress to know that we have a stable team that we can count on to get the job done.

For these reasons, I know maintaining our commitment to equal pay is good business for Alpha Express.

In February, I launched my new business called Popcorn Heaven, and we offer more than 50 flavors of gourmet popcorn in a happy and upbeat environment. So far the customer response has been great. You could say business is really popping. We’ve already got 10 full-time and part-time employees, and I’m making the same commitment to decent pay and paying living wages and pay equity that we’ve made in my father’s business.

I know that leading opponents of pay equity law are often big corporations. But if a start-up small business like mine can commit to equal pay and pay living wages and make it work for our business, then I believe that bigger companies can do the same.

As a small business owner and manager, I support the Paycheck Fairness Act because it’s in line with my values.

Because I am committed to pay equity, I have nothing to fear from this legislation. If other businesses are truly committed to pay equity, they’ll have nothing to fear either.

I support it because it’ll be good for our local economy. Ensuring pay equity will put more money in women’s pockets to spend in Waterloo business, like taking their kids out to experience a little taste of Popcorn Heaven.

And I support it because it will level the playing field of business competition. Small business owners don’t like being forced into a race to the bottom by big box stores and chains that can undercut us by underpaying their women workers.

Making a national commitment to pay equity allow small businesses to pay our workers fairer wages without fear of being undercut by low road competitors.

As a small business owner and manager, I urge your support for the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Thank you.

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