Progressive Women’s Caucus Continues Fight to End Wage Discrimination

Package of legislation sees no action in a Republican-dominated Legislature
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Rep. Erica Geiss discusses legislation that would end Michigan's pay gap at a press conference at the Capitol held Tuesday, April 12, 2016.

LANSING — The Progressive Women’s Caucus urged legislative leaders today to take up bills that would end wage discrimination in Michigan. Since introducing the bills a year ago, the Republican-led Legislature has taken no action to consider them — no committee hearings have been held, and no votes have been taken. Meanwhile, Michigan families who depend on women’s earnings to make ends meet continue to suffer from the state’s enduring wage gap.

According to wage data released by the National Partnership for Women and Families, a typical Michigan woman earns 75 cents for every dollar earned by a typical Michigan man when both have a similar education and experience level. That equates to an annual earning deficit of more than $12,738 for full-time working women. The gap between men’s and women’s earnings is even greater for African-American and Hispanic women, who earn 60 cents and 55 cents to each dollar earned by a man, respectively.

“Ending wage discrimination shouldn’t be a controversial or partisan issue. In fact, several Republican legislators have said they support pay equity,” said Rep. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor). “However, when it comes time to act, those voices fall silent. It’s not enough for legislators to simply say they support pay equity — it demands action. That’s why we’re calling on our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to take action to end wage discrimination in Michigan.”

The bills in the Progressive Women’s Caucus pay equity package would:

  • Require employers to disclose, upon request, wage information for similarly situated employees.
  • Amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include equal compensation for work of comparable value.
  • Require employers to post and inform employees about equal pay laws.
  • Create new user-friendly tools to report pay disparity in the workplace.
  • Require the state to include a review of wage differentials in its annual report with the goal of decreasing wage disparity between sexes.
  • Expand the prohibition of wage discrimination by amending the Workforce Opportunity Wage Act.
  • Allow remedies for wage discrimination under the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
  • Create an incentive awards program for employers who take steps to eliminate wage discrimination in the workplace and establish penalties for companies that don’t comply with equal pay laws.

“Equal pay is a fundamental economic issue in Michigan. Nothing is more crucial to a working, thriving state economy than providing fair and equitable pay to our citizens,” said Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright (D-Muskegon). “Women and the families who depend on them could be enjoying pay equity right now, if only Republicans had allowed action on these bills last year. It’s time to end months of inaction and come together in the Legislature to do what’s right by ending wage discrimination immediately.”

The pay gap has serious, real-world implications for Michigan families. The annual wage gap of $12,738 for a full-time worker could cover a year’s worth of mortgage payments, more than a year’s worth of groceries or about 6,000 gallons of gasoline.

“This is a time of unprecedented economic insecurity for many people, and the very least we can do is ensure that everyone receives equal pay for equal work,” said Sen. Rebekah Warren (D–Ann Arbor). “If we fail to act now, earnings for women in Michigan won’t catch up with male pay until 2086. That’s just not acceptable.”