Legislature should back equal pay for women

Rep. David Baria
Rep. David Baria

We support the Evelyn Gandy Fair Pay Act.

The bill, filed this week by Rep. David Baria, D-Bay St. Louis, says, “We recognize the importance of taking the necessary measures to prohibit wage discrimination against women, because we believe it is fair that women be paid the same amount that a man in the same job position would be paid for the same work.”

We agree.

We urge Rep. Donnie Bell, chairman of the Workforce Development Committee, and Rep. Mark Baker, chairman of Judiciary A, to let this bill reach the House floor.

At the very least, opponents of the bill should be given the opportunity to defend that position in public just as supporters should be afforded the opportunity to explain why Mississippi needs such a law.

We wish such a law were not necessary.

However, the American Association of University Women found the median earnings for women in Mississippi working full time year-round were just 76 percent of men’s median earnings in 2015.

“Women, one year after graduating from college, earn only 80 percent as much as their male counterparts in the same field, and after 10 years of experience, women earn only 69 percent as much,” Marianne Hill wrote on the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning website.

The National Partnership for Women and Families found women in sales are paid 62 cents for every $1 paid to men. In management, it’s 80 cents per dollar. In office and administrative support, it’s 87 cents.

That should be unacceptable to employers. It isn’t.

The group also made a finding that should get the lawmakers’ attention. Women say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports equal pay.

That is why 45 states have passed laws to attempt to remedy the inequality. That’s right, Mississippi is one of just five states that has no equal-pay law.

We realize the bill faces some tough odds. It and others like it have been rejected without much fanfare in the past.

Equal pay has come to be known as a Democratic or liberal issue.

It shouldn’t be.

Equal pay shouldn’t even be an issue. Equal pay should be a reality.

The Mississippi Legislature can help make it a reality and as Rep. Baria, the bill’s sponsor, said, show the nation we, too, have turned the corner.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.