Last week, Gov. Bobby Jindal vetoed Senate Bill 577 by Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, which was an instrument that was backed by the Louisiana Legislative Women’s Caucus. It would have created the Louisiana Equal Pay Task Force to study and make recommendations relating to equal pay issues in the Bayou State.
In his veto message, Jindal wrote that the bill would “force (the Louisiana Workforce Commission) to take funds away from critical services for the disabled to fund the task force because the agency’s only available source of State funding is for the Louisiana Rehabilitative Services program.”
Peterson called the decision “unfortunate” and promised to continue making the case.
“The statistics bear out a clear truth,” she said. “Louisiana’s gender wage gap is among the highest in the nation and this is hurting the prosperity of our state. By vetoing this modest study, the governor is approving of the status quo instead of moving our state forward.”
In an analysis of the bill, the Legislative Fiscal Office determined that there would be no “direct material effect on governmental expenditures.” Peterson argued that this should have been a sign to move forward.
“To even begin to deal with this issue, it’s imperative that we at least identify the root causes,” Peterson said. “Disparities like this harm our state, deprive it of potential tax revenues and insure working women throughout this state will continue to be at a disadvantage in the job marketplace through no fault of their own. We can and we must do better for the women of Louisiana.”
On the federal level, U.S. Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat, has been lobbying in favor of the Paycheck Fairness Act. This legislation updates and strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which made it illegal for employers to pay men and women unequal wages for the same work.
The Paycheck Fairness Act closes loopholes that allow employers to escape liability even when gender-based wage discrimination exists. It also includes protections for employees against retaliation for disclosing or discussing their salaries, as well as ensures employees have the same remedies for gender-based pay discrimination as other forms of discrimination such as race or national origin.
So far, however, the Senate has failed to advance the legislation.
“Fifty years ago, women were not usually the major breadwinner in their families,” Landrieu said. “Today, 24 percent of married Louisiana working mothers are their family’s primary earner, and women make up almost half of the Louisiana workforce. Yet these women still earn only 69 cents for every dollar that a man makes for doing the exact same job. This really is a family issue, because these families are earning less just because a woman is the breadwinner instead of a man”
Here’s some additional information on gender-based wage discrimination in Louisiana released by Landrieu’s office:
– Over her lifetime a woman in Louisiana will earn $598,000 less than her male counterpart
– This pay gap has harmed the families of roughly 927,000 women in the Louisiana workforce
– More than 680,000 Louisiana children live in households dependent on their mothers’ earnings
– On average, mothers in Louisiana contribute 40 percent of their family’s earnings
– Women in Louisiana earn less across all occupations and educational levels. Women’s median earnings are less than men’s median earnings in 264 of 265 major occupation categories
For another take on this issue, check out “Paycheck Fairness Act misguided effort.”