In observance of this year’s Equal Pay Day, a bicameral coalition of Michigan Democratic legislators led by members of the Progressive Women’s Caucus (PWC) unveiled legislation during a virtual press conference aimed at closing the gender pay gap in Michigan.

“Every American and Michigander deserves to have the freedom and opportunity to provide economic security for themselves and their family, regardless of their gender,” said state Rep. Christine Morse (D-Texas Twp.). “But for too long, women have been facing an uphill battle when simply asking to receive equal pay for equal work. It is long past time for our state to get serious about addressing the gender wage gap head-on and join the rest of us in the 21st century.”

As it stands, for every $1 earned by men of all races, women of all races averaged just 82 cents. For many women of color, the disparity is even starker, with Black women earning $0.62, Latinas earning $0.54 and Indigenous women earning $0.57 for every dollar made by their White male counterparts.

“This bold package of bills will ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work in Michigan,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “I applaud the PWC for their work to draft and propose these essential bills that pursue a range of reforms, from tackling wage discrimination and mandating wage disclosures, to creating a new commission on equal pay. These bills will make a meaningful impact on all Michiganders working or seeking employment.”

Equal Pay Day serves as an important reminder of the length of time it takes for women to catch up to earnings made by similarly situated male colleagues by the end of the previous year, but Equal Pay Days for mothers, Black and Indigenous women as well as Latinas fall much later: June 4, August 3, September 8 and October 21, respectively.

“Building economic and financial security should be available to everyone, regardless of gender or race; but that has yet to become the reality for working women across our state and nation,” said state Rep. Stephanie A. Young (D-Detroit). “This is precisely why our legislation is such an important stepping stone for efforts to level the playing field and change the discriminatory status quo. It’s long overdue for the Legislature as a whole to step up for the hardworking women of Michigan. Talk is cheap and doesn’t pay the bills, put food on the table or keep a roof over anyone’s head. It’s time for action.”

According to the National Women’s Law Center, a gender wage gap exists in 94 percent of occupations spanning both low- and high-wage jobs. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, women account for nearly 2 in 3 workers on the front-lines of the national response and are also overrepresented in industries most impacted by job loss as a result of the public health and economic crises, such as retail, service and hospitality industries.

“In a time when so many are still facing economic challenges due to the ongoing pandemic—especially working women and mothers—we must take the necessary steps today to ensure Michiganders can not only survive, but thrive, long after our battle with COVID-19 is over,” said state Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Twp.). “Legislation to close the gender wage gap isn’t just good policy, it’s also good for business; leading to a more productive workforce, less turnover and stronger households with increased buying power. With the obstacles placed in our path by the ongoing pandemic, we can’t afford to have any stone left unturned as we explore creative solutions to these unprecedented times.”