Wisconsin’s working women deserve fairness
By Lilly Ledbetter Milwaukee Journal Sentinel May 22, 2012
When Wisconsin passed the Equal Pay Enforcement Act in 2009, it completed a 20-year fight to strengthen the state’s equal pay law. The act finally gave women in the workplace the right to hold employers accountable for discrimination in Wisconsin.
On April 6, Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature quietly voted to repeal the Equal Pay Enforcement Act. With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Scott Walker took away 20 years of hard work that ensured our daughters and granddaughters equal rights in the workplace. It’s this type of belief system that created the divisiveness we’ve seen all too often recently.
Walker has launched a civil war on Wisconsin’s middle-class men and women. From ending years of gender equality enforcement to record job losses, Wisconsin’s working families are under attack. We need a governor who will bring all parties together and find solutions to return rights to women and put Wisconsinites back to work.
Republicans know that the public doesn’t agree with their views, so some have turned to misconstruing the facts. The governor and his friends in the state Senate want us to believe that there is no problem, that the pay gap exists only because women choose lower-paying jobs, that the law didn’t work and that remedies exist for victims of pay discrimination. But the truth is, the facts show otherwise.
According to the National Partnership on Women and Families, women in Wisconsin on average earn $10,033 less annually than male workers, amounting to over $8 billion in lost wages for Wisconsin’s working women and their families each year. This means that women make just 75 cents for every $1 a man makes for the same work. This isn’t just an issue for women; it’s an issue for families.
If the wage gap were closed, and Walker actually listened to the people he represents, Wisconsin families would have enough money to buy 91 more weeks of food or over 2,500 gallons of gas. What would your family do with $10,000 more in income each year? Pay off burdensome debts? Save for your children’s future? Invest in your local economy?
On the national level, the first bill that President Barack Obama signed into law was the Fair Pay Act in 2009. I couldn’t be prouder that this legislation bears my name, as I personally have lived the challenge still facing far too many women in the workplace. Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act was legislation similar to that federal law.
Today, Wisconsin is a better place to live, work and raise a family due to this federal legislation, but Walker’s war on women is a direct assault on that fairness. We should stand tall for all of our mothers, sisters, daughters and granddaughters and work to restore that fairness.
Lilly Ledbetter, a 20-year employee of Goodyear Tire, was the plaintiff in Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.