Kent-Ionia Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO

Growing and strengthening west Michigan's middle class

Pay Equity Day hits the floor of the Michigan legislature

LANSING April 15, 2015– If you were anywhere on Facebook or Twitter yesterday, you probably saw #EqualPayDay trending, and stories being posted about our nation’s gender gap when it comes to paychecks. Women earn, on average, 78% of what mean earn, and here in Michigan it’s even worse with women’s pay coming in at 77% of their male counterparts.

State Rep. Kristy Pagan

State Rep. Kristy Pagan

The Michigan legislature yesterday passed a resolution recognizing Pay Equity Day, and saw a number of bills discussed which would work to close the pay gap between men and women, including legislation from Grand Rapids State Rep. Winnie Brinks.

First, the House passed House Resolution 51, declaring April 14, 2015 to  be Pay Equity day in Michigan. The resolution didn’t pass, however, without a bit of controversy and contention between the Republican leadership and the Democratic sponsor.

The resolution’s sponsor, state Rep. Kristy Pagan (D-Canton), accused Michigan House Speaker Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant) of stripping gender-gap data from the resolution, and effectively neutralizing its power.

State Speaker of the House Kevin Cotter

State Rep. Kevin Cotter

“I believe that the Republican caucus is trying to hide the real data, the real facts and the real story behind pay inequality here,” Pagan told reporters after the vote.

But Speaker Cotter said that if Pagan wanted to keep the policy data in the resolution, it needed to go through normal committee debate and discussion. Pagan’s original resolution included many more facts and figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, than the one that eventually passed.

 

From MLive:

“We have two types of resolutions, commemorative resolutions and policy resolutions, and for good reason, policy resolutions go through the committee process,” said Cotter.

Pagan officially introduced the resolution earlier Tuesday, hoping for quick consideration on April 14, a symbolic date recognized this year by women’s equal pay advocates across the country.

The GOP-led House approved a nearly identical resolution last year without reviewing wage gap figures in committee, but Pagan said Republican leadership required “significant edits” to her version before they would put it up for a vote.

The version eventually adopted on Tuesday removed all factual assertions regarding wages, including U.S. Census Bureau figures indicating that full-time working women earned 77 percent as much as full-time working men in 2010.

“I think it weakens it,” Pagan said. “I think it buries the details about how important this issue is to the women of Michigan, to Michigan’s families and it takes away the really jaw-dropping statistic of how big the wage gap is here in Michigan.”

The revised resolution also removed language explaining that April 14 “symbolizes the time in the new year in which the wages paid to American women catch up to the wages paid to men from the previous year.”

In addition to the Pay Equity Day resolution, there was legislative action in both Lansing and Washington DC yesterday to fight gender-based pay discrimination.

  • State Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) announced plans to introduce legislation which would establish user-friendly tools to report pay disparity in the workplace.
  • State Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright (D-Muskegon) will introduce legislation meant to award companies that take steps to eliminate gender-based pay discrimination and further penalize companies that fail to comply with existing laws.
  • State Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) announced on Tuesday that she would re-introduce legislation on pay equity. “Study after study has proven what women have known for decades – that we are paid less than men for the same work,” Sen. Warren said in a statement. “What is most troubling though is that we have seen very little movement to close the gap in the last 10 years. In fact, at the current rate, it will take 71 years for women in Michigan to achieve pay equity. Meanwhile, we are buying our groceries, paying our mortgages, and supporting our families, all on paychecks that are almost a quarter smaller than our male counterparts. We simply cannot afford to wait that long – literally or figuratively.”
  • State Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing) announced his plan to introduced legislation to establish a commission on pay equity.
  • State Sen. Coleman Young II (D-Detroit) announced he would work to modify existing law on wage discrimination based on gender.
  • U.S. Sen Gary Peters (D), while announcing that he will co-sponsor federal legislation on paycheck fairness, made this statement: “As a father, I want to ensure that my two daughters have the same opportunities as my son and their hard work will not be discounted simply because of their gender. On Equal Pay Day, I urge the Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to give women the information they need to fight pay disparity in the workplace and earn equal pay for equal work.”
  • U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) issued this statement: “The Paycheck Fairness Act closes loopholes that still exist to ensure all Americans are earning equal pay for equal work. This is not just a women’s issue, it’s a family issue. When women bring home less money each day, it means they have less for the everyday needs of their families – groceries, rent, child care and doctors’ visits. When women succeed, America succeeds, and this Equal Pay Day, we are calling on our colleagues to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to help close the pay gap once and for all.”
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