Progressive Women’s Caucus Works to End Wage Discrimination

Representatives announce pay equity legislation as citizens rally at the Capitol
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
State Rep. Erika Geiss speaks in support of House Democratic legislation to ensure equal pay for women at a rally on the Capitol steps in Lansing on Tuesday, April 25, 2017. Behind Rep. Geiss are, from left to right, seated state Rep. Donna Lasinski (D Scio Township), standing Reps. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), Pam Faris (D-Clio) and Terry J. Sabo (D-Muskegon).

LANSING — The Progressive Women’s Caucus introduced a 12-bill package today that seeks to end wage discrimination in Michigan. While protecting equal pay is important for everyone, wage discrimination disproportionately impacts women in Michigan. The bills are being introduced to coincide with Equal Pay Day in Michigan. Women have to work into April of the new year in order to earn what men earned in the previous year. April 4 of this year was recognized as National Equal Pay Day.

“Wages lost to pay discrimination mean that women and their families have less money to support themselves, less money to spend in their communities, less money to save for the future and fewer opportunities to offer their children,” said state Rep. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), vice chairwoman of the PWC. “Families, businesses and our state economy all suffer because of this wage gap. It’s time for all of my colleagues — from both sides of the aisle — who say that they support pay equity and a thriving economy to join us to pass this legislation and see it signed into law.”

According to 2017 wage data released by the National Partnership for Women and Families, a typical white, non-Hispanic Michigan woman earns 74 cents for every dollar earned by a typical Michigan man when both have a similar education and experience level. The gap between men’s and women’s earnings is even greater for African-American women, who earn 64 cents, and Hispanic women, who earn 57 cents for each dollar earned by a man. That equates to an annual earning deficit of nearly $13,000 for full-time working women, which has serious, real-world implications for Michigan families. It could cover more than a year’s worth of groceries, about 5,500 gallons of gasoline, could help a woman save for retirement or post-secondary education for her children, and in many cases, cover a year’s worth of rent or mortgage payments.

“Today is Equal Pay Day at the state Capitol, and I am proud to join my colleagues and residents from across the state to say that we cannot talk about improving Michigan’s economy without first ending the pay gap,” said PWC Chairwoman Rep. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit). “Many Michigan women are the primary or co-breadwinner in their family, and we all know women who are the head of their household. The wage gap is one of the most important economic factors affecting Michigan families, and so we are again introducing legislation to ensure pay equity.”

The bills in the PWC pay equity package would:

  • Require employers to disclose, upon request, wage information for similarly situated employees.
  • Expand the prohibition of wage discrimination by amending the Workforce Opportunity Wage Act.
  • Amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to create a commission on pay equity within the Department of Civil Rights.
  • 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.
  • 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.

 “My bill ensures that employers cannot discriminate when it comes to wages based on sex or any other category, including religion, race and color,” said state Rep. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids). “Prices have gone up so gas costs more, groceries cost more and that makes it even harder on women who aren’t paid equally.  At the very least, we can provide equal pay for equal work so women have a better chance to provide what their families need.”

"Not only is there a wage gap for women. Mothers experience an even larger disparity when compared to fathers," said Danielle Atkinson, executive director of Mothering Justice. "We have an opportunity in Michigan to dismantle wage discrimination so every person can care for themselves and their families — it's time to pass this legislation."

PWC members and their Democratic colleagues have introduced and fought for pay equity legislation in the last two legislative terms.

“My colleagues and I will again fight for pay equity because it is one of the important issues facing us as a society,” said state Rep. Leslie Love (D-Detroit). “Making sure that workers are paid equally shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It’s unconscionable to allow people to be paid differently for doing the same work.”