Today is special. Tax returns are due, two days later than usual. And it’s Equal Pay Day! That’s the day in 2012 on which women have earned the same as men did for 2011 work. “Each year, National Equal Pay Day reflects how far into the current year women must work to match what men earned in the previous year.”
The Department of Labor has a section on its website devoted to Equal Pay issues. But despite the law, which has been in effect since 1963, women continue to be paid less than men overall, and less than men for the same job. President Obama’s first signed law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, to overturn a hostile Supreme Court decision.
Equal Pay act cases are still difficult to prove unless the workers have extremely similar jobs. While I doubt this was the intention of lawmakers, judges have approached equal pay act cases with a lot of skepticism. Two higher level positions are almost guaranteed not to be completely similar, but to pay two vice presidents with similar scope of responsibilities at dramatically different rates is commonplace.
Maryland’s record is better than most; according to Governor O’Malley, “Thankfully, in Maryland we’ve been able to reduce the wage gap between men and women to the fourth-lowest in the nation – and we were recently named the 3rd best State in the US to be a woman.”
But bring into the mix the State of Wisconsin, which has produced some extremely anti-labor sentiments of late.
After trying to rid the state government of unions, Wisconsin decided to attack protection for women (and racial minorities, among other protected categories). Republic state senator Glenn Grothman spearheaded the repeal of the state’s equal pay act law. Senator Grothman rejects studies showing that women are systematically discriminated against. Instead, according to him, “you could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious.”
Okay; even if that “argument” had any logic behind it, it still does not explain why a man should be paid more for the same job, just because it’s “more important” for him. Should a single mother of four earn more than a young single man living with his parents, because it’s more important for her? Hard to imagine Wisconsin getting behind that one.
No, this seems to be about gender. Men deserve more money, according to these attitudes that, unfortunately (though sometimes more subtly stated) prevail.