GREAT LAKES BEACON

What is Michigan Doing to Support Pay Equity?

Today marks Equal Pay Day, a day recognized nationally as a way to shed light on the fact that women have to work 15 months to achieve the same earnings men do in 12 months.

That’s certainly the case for Michigan, too, where women on average make 78 cents (compared to 80 cents nationally) for every dollar made by a man. And that statistic is even worse for women of color: Black women in Michigan typically make 64 cents (compared to 63 cents nationally) and Latina women make 57 cents (compared to 54 cents nationally) for every dollar made by a man.

That means Equal Pay Day for Black women is not until August; Latina women is in September; and Native American women won’t see Equal Pay Day until November.

“When a woman earns less than her male counterpart for doing the same work, not only does she lose, but her family and her local economy lose as well,” said Rep. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), vice chairwoman of the state Progressive Women’s Caucus and co-chair of the Women’s Economic Task Force. “Women make up nearly half of the country’s workforce, yet even when controlling for every other possible factor, we’re still underpaid. That has a ripple effect, preventing women from contributing financially to their homes and communities in the way their male counterparts can, stripping the economy and the world at large of valuable resources, holding us all back in the long run. This important economic civil rights and human rights issue must be addressed so that we can work together to drive our economy forward.”

Statistics from the National Women’s Law Center also found some 14.6 percent of women in Michigan live in poverty compared to the 12.8 percent nationally. For single mothers in Michigan, that number increases to 39.8 percent living in poverty (35.6 percent nationally), as well as 9.6 percent of women 65 and older (10.6 percent nationally) living in poverty.

House and Senate Democrats have introduced legislation year after year to do something about pay equity in Michigan to no avail in the Republican-controlled chambers. Legislation introduced in the House and Senate has sat untouched since April 2017.

The bills in the package would require employers to disclose, upon request, wage information for similarly situated employees; require employers to post information and tell employees about equal pay laws; create new user-friendly tools to report pay disparity in the workplace; and create an incentive awards program for employers who take steps to eliminate wage discrimination in the workplace and establish penalties for organizations that fail to comply with equal pay laws.

Legislation in the Senate was sent to the Government Operations Committee, chaired by Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive), and in the House was placed with Rep. Eric Leutheuser (R-Hillsdale) in his Commerce and Trade Committee.

Danielle Emerson

Danielle Emerson