Do you think our state needs to do more to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work?
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From the pages of In Business magazine.
Welcome to "Political Posturing," featuring opposing views on current issues important to Wisconsin's business community. In this column, Wisconsin Business Alliance Executive Director Lori Compas and conservative columnist David Blaska offer their opinions from the left and the right, respectively.
State’s equal pay law should be revived.
By Lori Compas
Until women actually receive equal pay for doing equal work, our state should address wage discrimination. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, women in Wisconsin annually make an average of 78 cents for every dollar paid to men, resulting in an average wage gap of $10,000 per year.
Federal law requires employers to pay men and women equally for equal work, but bringing a case to federal court is an expensive and time-consuming process. Because of that fact, Wisconsin legislators created a simpler and easier path to parity: They passed a law in 2009 that allowed victims of discrimination based on gender, age, or military status to sue their employers in state court. Perhaps I should say it would have allowed victims of discrimination to sue in state court, because not a single lawsuit was ever brought under Wisconsin’s equal pay law. But because the threat of an accessible remedy was real, pay for women crept up toward parity during the period the law was in effect.
Wisconsin’s equal pay law worked well as a deterrent against discrimination without resulting in any actual lawsuits, but Scott Walker and legislative Republicans repealed it in 2012.
Wisconsin’s state chamber of commerce, also known as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, was behind this effort all the way. In fact, until recently, WMC had an image on its website claiming that a woman asking for equal pay was “anti-business.”
This makes no sense. For one thing, discrimination is simply wrong and our state should help people fight it. And from an economic standpoint, working women are a strong force in our economy, and they make important purchasing decisions. When people earn more, they tend to spend more, and more money in consumers’ pockets means more sales at our businesses.
As the late Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone once said, “We all do better when we all do better.” Instead of turning a blind eye to discriminatory practices, Wisconsin should reinstate its equal pay law.
Lori Compas is a small business owner and the executive director of the nonpartisan Wisconsin Business Alliance, wisconsinbusinessalliance.com.