By GLORIA NZEKA
Capital News Service
LANSING — With national Equal Pay Day coming on April 10, gender equity proponents in the Legislature are working to get Gov. Rick Snyder to veto a bill that would prevent municipalities from deciding whether local employers can request a job candidate’s wage history.
The bill, which passed the House and Senate, is sponsored by Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, would expand a current ban on local government regulation of information from job applicants.
Rep. Donna Lasinski, D-Scio Township, who voted against the bill, said there hasn’t been significant action taken on equal pay since the federal Equal Pay Act was signed into law 55 years ago with the purpose of abolishing wage disparity based on gender,
Lasinski said there are two aspects of the bill she opposes: restricting the ability of communities to innovate and trying to preempt local action that may help close the gap.
The National Partnership for Women and Families’ latest report shows that in Michigan, women on average are paid 74 cents for every dollar paid to men. The group, based in Washington, D.C., said that women in Michigan lose nearly $23 billion a year due to the pay gap.
The gap is even more pronounced in ethnic groups such as black and Latina women, the report said.
“One of the things that perpetuates the pay gap is folks consistently being paid based on the salary history of their previous job versus the pay for the skills required to do the current job,” Lasinski said.
Gender pay proponents are writing letters to Snyder, urging a veto, Lasinski said.
The move to limit local governments from passing wage history ordinances comes as part of an accelerating trend from the Legislature to reduce local government autonomy.
“There has been a tightening from the state level on the ability of local governments to do what’s best for the local community,” Lasinski said. “We have had several bills over this session that restrict local government from innovating in their own communities and from ensuring that, as local elected officials, they’re doing what’s right and best by their communities.”
For equal pay supporters and advocacy groups, Lasinski says the effort to achieve pay equity is taking place on many levels.
The Progressive Women’s Caucus in the Legislature supports a 14-bill package with items that its members say are needed to close the gap. One bill in that package would establish an award program for employers that achieve progress in equalizing pay for men and women.
The package will be highlighted on April 10 at the Equal Pay Legislative Day rally at the Capitol.
“It’s not until April 10 that women and men in Michigan receive equal pay. So essentially women have been working for free up until April 10,” Lasinski said.
By GLORIA NZEKA