Progressive Women’s Caucus Unveils Agenda to Fight Wage Discrimination

Package of legislation takes aim at Michigan’s persistent wage gap
Tuesday, April 14, 2015

LANSING – Today, the Progressive Women’s Legislative Caucus introduced a new wage discrimination policy agenda providing comprehensive solutions to combat Michigan’s wage gap. The legislation would take critical steps to empower workers to negotiate for equal pay, strengthen support and create strong incentives for employers to follow the law, and streamline enforcement efforts.

Michigan law has prohibited wage discrimination based on gender for more than five decades, yet a significant gap persists. According to 2015 wage data released by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Michigan ranks 36th in the nation for pay equity, with women working full time earning 23 percent less than the average full-time male worker employed in significantly similar work - that equates to an annual earning deficit of more than $13,000 per household.

“This is not a partisan issue – two people who have the same training and do the same work should earn the same wage, both Republicans and Democrats should agree on that,” said Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), whose bill would create new user-friendly tools to report pay disparity in the workplace. “It’s time to give these measures the full authority of law so our state can fight wage discrimination, and every Michigander can earn what his or her work is truly worth.”

According to the new data, Michigan isn’t expected to reach wage parity until 2086 unless action is taken to create pay equity sooner.

“Michigan families can’t wait 71 years to be paid what they’re worth,” said Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright (D-Muskegon). Hovey-Wright’s bills would 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 current equal pay laws. “A key objective of my bills is to foster a culture of non-discrimination in the workplace, and empower employers to self-audit and assess their own hiring, promotion, and equal pay standards and practices; recognizing and rewarding those who do.”

Other bills in the 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.
  • 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.
  • Recognize April 14, 2015 as Equal Pay Day.

“Paying women equally isn’t just a fairness issue or a women’s issue or a civil rights issue. It’s a central economic issue for our state,” said Rep. Leslie Love (D-Detroit), the sponsor of the bill to create a commission on pay equity. “When women are paid a justifiable wage, their families have more income to spend in local businesses, which in turn supports more jobs. Michigan’s entire economy will benefit when women are paid fairly.”

According to the Michigan dashboard, a performance measuring tool for the state implemented by Gov. Rick Snyder, Michigan is experiencing decline in several key areas including: real personal income per capita, welfare-to-work participation rate, population growth, participation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields and university graduation rates.

“When we create a thriving economic climate where everyone earns a fair wage, we attract talent and encourage businesses to invest in Michigan. I believe that our colleagues in the Michigan Legislature understand that equal pay is an issue of economic security, and that we will work together to see these bills pass through the Legislature and on to the governor’s desk for signing,” said Rep. Gretchen Driskell (D-Saline), who sponsored the bills to create an equal pay certification program for state contractors and amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include equal pay. “Concrete action and leadership are needed to make real progress in continuing our state’s economic recovery and growth. This legislation will ensure equality and performance in the workplace, it will improve the economy, and it is the right thing to do for Michigan’s working families.” 

Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) explains the need for pay equity in Michigan at a press conference held at the state Capitol on Tuesday, April 14, 2015.

Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) explains the need for pay equity in Michigan at a press conference held at the state Capitol on Tuesday, April 14, 2015.