Governor Walker Rolls Back Equal Pay Bill for Wisconsinites
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R), who has a history of restricting workers’ rights in his state and who is facing a recall election in two months, signed the repeal of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act on Thursday evening. This law, which was passed in 2009, provided employers opportunities to challenge unfair pay discrepancies in state courts, which is a more efficient and less costly option than federal court challenges.
Linda Meric, the national director of 9to5 (an organization devoted to working-women’s issues), explains that Wisconsin’s equal pay law was comparable to laws across the country: “It’s often easier, faster, and cheaper to pursue a claim of discrimination in state court than in federal court…Wisconsin was certainly in the mainstream in having a law that provided remedies for employees who experienced discrimination on the job.” The law covered pay discrimination based on gender, race, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and other factors.
The issue of equal pay for women has been an ongoing battle in the fight for women’s rights. Nationally, women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar that men make. This pay disparity affects women and their families, who lose more than $200 billion per year due to unequal pay. In Wisconsin the gender-based pay gap is no better: The pay gap between men and women in the state is an average of $11,201, which means full-time working women lose a combined $9,237,262,410 each year.
Governor Walker made no comment about signing the repeal, but State Senator Glenn Grothman (R) explained why he saw his vote as an obvious choice: In denying the very existence of the pay gap, he said, “You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious. To attribute everything to a so-called bias in the workplace is just not true.”
Of course, it is Senator Grothman’s comments that are not based on fact. In two-thirds of American families, the mother is the primary or co-breadwinner—yet, in all 50 states, they make less than their spouse.
While some argue that gender-based pay discrepancies are the fault of women who drop out of the workforce to raise children, equal pay is not just caused by women’s “choices.” A study conducted by the American Association of University Women found that, of full-time workers 10 years after college graduation, there was still a 12% unexplained difference in earnings. Additionally, a World Economic Forum report notes that the biggest barrier to female leadership in the workplace (a factor that is often linked to unequal pay) is that “leading companies are failing to fairly integrate women in the workforce.”
Jewish tradition has long recognized the importance of paying fair wages. Leviticus 19:13 commands, “You shall not defraud your neighbor, nor rob him; the wages of he who is hired shall not remain with you all night until the morning.” The current system defrauds women by paying them lower wages for the same work performed by men with similar credentials and making it difficult for those women to effectively fight back. All workers deserve to be paid fairly for the job they perform, regardless of gender.
Photo courtesy of the National Organization of Women