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Equal pay for equal work should matter to all of us

Rep. Eric Johnson | 4/14/2014, 11:18 a.m.

Texas House of Representatives

Last week, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis said, “the Equal Pay Act is commonsense,” in response to Gov. Rick Perry’s veto of the bill aimed at closing gaps in the Lilly Ledbetter Act at the state level. Meanwhile, Perry stated that Davis’ focus on issues like equal pay was “nonsense,” and the Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott said that he would veto the bill if he is elected and it ends up on his desk during the 2015 Legislative session. As a response, Davis said, “This Texas gal is calling you out,” and I’m standing with Davis!

As we just saw Equal Pay Day, Wednesday, it’s important to consider the lack of gender equality in the workforce. I was raised by a strong, hardworking, independent woman and I’m now the husband to one. In the next month, I could be the father of one. I’ve worked tirelessly to earn the career that I have, and my mother, wife and countless other Texas women have done the same. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Black and Hispanic women make just 70 and 60 cents for every dollar a White male makes, respectively, and although the stats for White women are better, they’re still only making 81 cents for every dollar their male counterparts receive.

Women in Texas, and in America, deserve equal opportunity and wages, and right now they’re not getting either. Mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, of all races, deserve to be paid equally for equal work, as well as be provided the same promotional and work opportunities. In a 2005 poll, 44 percent of American women said they had been discriminated against in the workplace because of gender, and currently, females hold just 4.4 percent of Fortune 500 CEO positions. This has gone beyond the dollar-for-dollar problem, and it’s time that women had the same opportunities with the same salaries as their male counterparts available to them. In 2008, female physicians earned approximately 36 percent less than male physicians, and in 2011, female lawyers earned 9 percent, on average, less than male lawyers and made up approximately 20 percent of all law firm partners in the United States.

This past January in his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called this inequality “wrong and an embarrassment,” just before stating that it’s time to end “workplace policies that belong in a Mad Men episode.” It’s 2014, women are fighting a century-old battle to gain equal pay for the work that they do, and it’s unacceptable.

It’s inexcusable for Texas to lack the appropriate laws and regulations to ensure that women are paid equally for the time and effort that they put into their jobs. As we passed Equal Pay Day, the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s signing of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, it’s important that we make sure our mothers and sisters, daughters and wives are recognized and compensated appropriately for the hard work that they do. Texas women deserve better than they’re getting right now, and ensuring equality in the workplace is a step in the right direction for changing that.