Wage discrimination is an issue across the nation, but here in Michigan, the problem is worse than in most other states. According to data from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Michigan ranks 36thin pay equity in the nation. White women who work full-time in Michigan earn nearly 30 percent less, on average, than their male counterparts. That equates to roughly $13,000 in annual earnings lost. The statistics on the wage gap for women of color is striking. The institute reported that African-American women earn just 67 cents to every dollar to what white man makes. For Latinas, the figure is 58 cents on the dollar. This is simply unacceptable.
These infuriating pay gaps are why my colleagues in the Progressive Women’s Legislative Caucus and I have introduced a package of bills to combat wage discrimination. My bill, House Bill 4489, would require businesses to post information about pay equity laws. Another bill would require employers, on request, to disclose certain wage information. Other legislation in our package of bills would create an Equal Pay Commission to study the issue of pay equity and increase penalties for companies that unfairly discriminate against their employees.
In many families, women are the primary breadwinner. When women are unfairly paid less, their partners and children also suffer. On the other hand, when families have more money — especially low- and middle-income workers — they tend to spend it. They have cars to maintain, food to put on the table and other necessary expenses. When people spend more money, it stimulates the local economy, helping small businesses create jobs. Pay equity is a win-win.
Although I am frustrated to be fighting some of the same battles that my mother’s generation fought, I am proud to follow in their footsteps. I will continue doing whatever I can to get a hearing for pay equity legislation, and I will continue to be a voice for issues that matter most to the men, women and families of Wayne County.