On Women's Equality Day we look back and rejoice over strides we've made -- especially the right to vote -- and look forward to the work that still remains.
Right now that is chiefly pay equality. In our nation, women still earn, on average, about three-quarters of what men earn for the same jobs. Are women really worth less? We don't think so.
That's why we are very happy that Montana Gov. Steve Bullock has formed a task force to examine the issue and come up with solutions. Today he announced the task force members: Montana State University President Waded Cruzado, Women's Foundation of Montana Program Director Jen Euell, Missoula College Dean Barry Good of Missoula, Helena businesswoman Amy Grmoljez, Billings Mayor Tom Hanel, SEIU Healthcare 775 NW State Director Jacquie Helt, Bozeman businesswoman Deb Larson, LIUNA Local 1686 Business Manager Kim Rickard, Salish-Kootenai Tribal member Amy Stiffarm of Polson, and Bozeman businessman Scott Wilson.
“Montana women earn only 67% of what men earn, putting Montana at 39th place for pay equity in the nation,” said Bullock in June, when he announced the task force. “I’d match the Montana work ethic up against any other state in the nation, and 39th place for pay equity is unacceptable.”
It's been 50 years since the federal Equal Pay Act was signed into law by President John F. Kennedy. It was supposed to ensure that women would be paid the same as men for the same work. But since that is far from reality, on June 10, 2013, 15 national, regional and state-based women's rights organizations from around the country, including the American Civil Liberties Union came together and launched the Equal Pay Today! Campaign. The EPT! Platform identifies five areas of employer practices that contribute to the gender wage gap: less pay for the same job, occupational segregation, pay secrecy, pregnancy discrimination and lack of paid sick/family leave, and wage theft/minimum wage violations.
The campaign is working to end these discriminatory employment practices by pushing for policy change at both the federal and state level. For example, the federal Paycheck Fairness Act will close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and prohibit retaliation against employees who discuss their wages. Similarly, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will require employers to make the same accommodations for pregnant workers that they make for other employees who are similarly temporarily unable to perform all aspects of their jobs.
At the same time, the Equal Pay Today! Campaign is working with advocates in states around the country to push for legislative and executive branch action to address the gender wage gap. We're so glad that work in this area is already happening under the Bullock administration.
"We know that it’s not enough to bring new business and jobs to our beautiful state; we need to make sure those jobs are high-paying, quality jobs — jobs where Montana women and men alike earn a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work,” said Bullock in June. “This Task Force will strive to support all Montana workers in achieving paycheck fairness, because when Montana working families prosper, our state prospers."
We couldn't agree more.