Wisconsin state senator Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) wants women to know that the whole concept of wage discrimination is all in their heads. “It’s an underreported problem,” Grothman told The Daily Beast, “but a huge number of discrimination claims are baseless. Most of them are filed by fired employees, and really today almost anybody is a protected class.”
It was this rationale that led the senator to spearhead the drive to repeal Wisconsin’s 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act, the state’s equivalent of the Ledbetter Act, the federal law that helped provide the means for workers to pursue discrimination claims against employers.
Governor Scott Walker (R) signed the repeal of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act into law on Thursday. The repeal, now known as Act 219, was brought before Walker after passing in party-line votes in the Republican-dominated state senate and state assembly.
One of the authors of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act, Democratic state senator Christine Sinicki (Milwaukee) said of Act 219, “This whole (legislative) session has been anti-woman and anti-middle class, and this fits right in with that agenda.”
Grothman dismisses the idea that the original legislation was even necessary. He said that the Equal Pay Enforcement Act imposed an untenable burden on businesses, and that the reason women make less than men in the workplace has less to do with bias than with women’s decision to prioritize child-rearing over their careers.
He told the Beast, “Take a hypothetical husband and wife who are both lawyers, but the husband is working 50 or 60 hours a week, going all out, making 200 grand a year. The woman takes time off, raises kids, is not go go go. Now they’re 50 years old. The husband is making 200 grand a year, the woman is making 40 grand a year. It wasn’t discrimination. There was a different sense of urgency in each person.”
Citing the writings of right-wing provocateur and frequent talk-show guest Ann Coulter as evidence, Grothman claimed that when ”you break it down by married and unmarried, the differential disappears.”
Fatima Goss Graves, vice president for education and employment at the National Women’s Law Center beged to differ. Citing “study after study,” Graves said, “The idea that pay discrimination is a myth is a myth in and of itself.”
According to The Daily Beast, “A 2007 study by the American Association of University Women found that college-educated women earn only 80 percent as much as similarly educated men a year after graduation.”
After ten years in the workforce, the gap opened to 12 percent.
Prior to the passage of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act, Wisconsin had a larger gap than the national average between the wages of male and female workers. By the time the law was repealed on Thursday, the gap had shrunken to lower than the national average.
“Since the law was put into place, employers actually took notice and were very conscious of the fact that they had to follow this law or they were at risk of a lawsuit,” said Democratic senator Sinicki.
Governor Scott Walker and four other state Republicans will be facing historic recall elections in June.
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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