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Repealing Wisconsin's Equal Pay Act

Rep. Cory Mason said he is beyond surprised that in 2012, there are some legislators who don't think women should get paid the same wage as men for the same work.

Every time I think this legislative session could not possibly get any stranger or more shocking, my Republican colleagues do something else to surprise me. On February 21st, in a stunning move, Assembly Republicans voted to repeal Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Act. That's right, instead of passing bills to create jobs, Assembly Republicans repealed the law that ensured that women cannot get paid less than a man for doing the same job. Women in Wisconsin still only make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men.

As the Assembly debated this bill, I found myself thinking a lot about my three young children, especially my two daughters. My wife Rebecca and I named our daughters after pioneering women: Eleanor Roosevelt Mason is three years old and Amelia Earhart Mason is 18 months old. We hoped that the connection to their namesakes would allow our daughters to pursue their own way forward. We thought that it would be such historical figures from a bygone era who would teach our daughters the surely now well-settled lesson that women are capable of doing work that men do – in politics, aviation, or anything else – for equal pay.

I am disappointed to know that years from now when I describe my time in the Wisconsin Legislature to my children, I will have to tell them that in the year 2012 it was actually a question for debate whether women deserve equal pay for equal work. I will have to tell my daughters – and my son – that I know it’s hard to believe, but it was not in 1952 or 1972 that the state Assembly was debating women’s equal protection under the law, but the year 2012.

I’m also stunned to realize that for Wisconsin’s Republican Party, it has now become a mainstream view that women do not deserve legal protection to ensure they are treated fairly for their remuneration. This Republican extreme view of liberty leaves no room for equality. This philosophy that government should never require employers to do anything – pay a minimum wage, ensure basic workplace safety provisions, or allow for family medical leave – has now been stretched so far to the extreme that it now even includes the view that women are inferior employees undeserving of equal protection under the law. This view is out of touch with Wisconsin’s values.

As a result of the events of the last year, I have already steeled myself to tell my children how, in 2011, Scott Walker divided our beloved state as it had never been divided before. I have been preparing to tell my children how Scott Walker destroyed union rights in the state that first created many of these rights. I cannot believe I now will also have to tell my children that part of my public service in Wisconsin’s Legislature required me to fight for such a basic principle as equal pay for women in the year 2012.

By repealing Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Act, Republicans have set Wisconsin back decades in our quest to recognize and advance women’s economic worth and equality, and they have missed yet another opportunity to advance Wisconsin’s proud tradition of justice and fairness.

Dean February 24, 2012 at 03:19 PM
My oh my Cory. This is one of the reasons that liberals drive conservatives crazy. Instead of all the worrying about how your going to tell your children that everything is someone else's fault, how about telling your children (son's or daughter's) that if you work hard for what you want in life that nothing can stand in your way. I am the father of 3 wonderful children, the oldest a very successful young lady with a Bachelors degree & 2 Masters degrees. We do not need a do everything for me society. Get off your backside, work hard and you will succeed whether you are a women or a man. Keep up the good work Scott, Van & Robin!!!!!
Tim Scott February 24, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Mr. Mason, please define for me "Equal Pay for Equal Work" What if the Employer feels the Woman has greater future potential, or simply desires to pay a Woman *MORE* - that would be a problem, wouldn't it? Mr. Mason, does this also apply to a "Position", or "Title" - which may be equal in name only, but unequal in work performed according to the Company, or the talents and abilities of the person who holds that job? Mr. Mason - why do you feel it is necessary for you to "Champion", or "White Knight" Women? Are they the weaker sex and unable to fend for themselves? Mr. Mason claims: "Women in Wisconsin still only make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men." Where did you pull that figure from? Some flawed liberal think tank trying to push an agenda? My sources claim that in an effort to overcompensate women and mitigate discrimination claims employers overpay women with a 23 cents an hour higher wage as compared to men for comparable work. And really, Mr. Mason, what is wrong with you metro-sexual, SWPL, guilt-ridden Beata males? Everybody knows women belong in the home, bare-foot and pregnant, tending to my children and making my meals.
Gary Hurtienne February 24, 2012 at 05:57 PM
If the corrent law is working so well and worth keeping on the books, why are women only getting 77% of what men get for the same job? If it is a flawed law get it off the books. If it's not being inforced, get it off the books. And like another commenter asks - Just where did Mr. Mason's 77% number come from? Please cite your sources.
C. Sanders February 24, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Cory, I am not sure what is more disgraceful: this piece of fiction, which lacks any supporting references, OR the psychological harm you are doing to your children by filling them with your NONSENSE and then have them grow up actually believing it. BLS would summarily refute your numbers: http://www.bls.gov/ro5/wewi.htm IN FACT, under Doyle and his predecessors Wisconsin women LAGGED the national average in earnings as a % of male earnings for the ENTIRE period 1997-2009. Where were you then? What did you tell your children at that time? IN FACT, under Walker Wisconsin women have achieved earnings of 82.8% and have NOW passed the National average of 81.2%, for the first time in 13 years. You should now tell your children that they should vote for Walker because he he making a better, fairer environment for working women in Wisconsin. By the way Cory, Wisconsin women have consistently earned more than 77% since 2006. Where have you been for the past 6 years? Your position article is pathetic and you owe Patch readers an apology..
Quint Canard February 24, 2012 at 10:47 PM
Why do you think the percentage spiked in the last two years?
mau February 24, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Oh gag, you should have been listening and concentrating on the debate.
Lyle Ruble February 25, 2012 at 02:12 AM
@Assembly Representative Cory Mason....Sir, I am disappointed in the lack of context of your piece. As many on the Patch know, I'm not exactly a conservative. In fact, I am a social democrat and left of center. However, if I am to hold the political right and the Republicans to account, I can't very well let you slide off the hook. You start your piece making claims that remain unsubstantiated. Then you slide off into a social emotional appeal claiming the Republicans have perpetrated social injustices. The only problem is that you have given us no particulars, including the reasons for the proposed legislation and turn back of equal pay for equal work. If you want to gain and maintain credibility, then you must give us a more complete picture. If not, then what you have to say will simply be written off as nothing more than partisan bashing.
B. Jones February 25, 2012 at 03:28 AM
Why did the percentage spike the last two years? Because the Equal Pay Act was passed in July 2009. According to the US Department of Labor, women's pay in Wisconsin reached just over 80% of men's pay for the first time in 2010. Wow, who knows, maybe if they hadn't repealed the law, women's pay for equal work could have been, you know, EQUAL to men's. Wouldn't that be something. So...it was working, and they repealed it. Pathetic.
C. Sanders February 25, 2012 at 04:00 AM
B. Jones: Try again. That was weak.. There were no lawsuits [Zero lawsuits] put forward under the "very recently enacted" WI Equal Pay Act, therefore it was as if it never existed and to repeal would do nothing to change the GOOD NEWS that was already happening with indifference to the partisan law that you so cling to. Unions, inevitably will prevent women from achieving 100% parity with men because "seniority" is "excluded" under the law. So a man and woman doing the same union job under the Equal Pay Act would be paid at a different rate rate, and since women in any numbers, as a population, entered the union workforce AFTER men, then the women under the Equal Pay Act of Wisconsin would be permitted to be paid LESS than men ... doesn't sound fair to me and prevents women from ever achieving 100% parity with men across all races and job classifications. BUT, if the very same job were NON-UNION, then there could be a basis to go forward with an action under the law. Sounds partisan to me! But, remember, there were ZERO actions of any kind that took place under this partisan law. So, the data and REALITY fairly concludes that Mason is a buffoon and is doing no more than "partisan bashing", which speaks of his lack of depth, commitment and accomplishment.
James R Hoffa February 25, 2012 at 06:24 AM
@Lyle - Welcome to Mason's world - he's nothing more than a constant and consistent grandstanding partisan basher. And who are you trying to fool - everyone here knows you're further right than Ayn Rand! :-)
James R Hoffa February 25, 2012 at 06:25 AM
@C. Sanders - Very nice job covering this one - I couldn't have done it better myself!
Cynthia February 25, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Bravo C. Sanders!!!!
Cynthia February 25, 2012 at 01:28 PM
Women in Wisconsin still only make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. Seems it wasn't working ..................
Terry Ott February 25, 2012 at 03:39 PM
Is this really such a big deal? This is based on the commentary from a prominent law firm: If the Assembly passes the bill and Governor Scott Walker signs it, successful discrimination complainants will no longer be able to collect compensatory and punitive damages under the WFEA, but they will still be eligible to receive back pay and attorneys’ fees. This bill, if it becomes law, specifically overturns a law passed under Governor Jim Doyle only two years ago. The current measure has received strong support from employer groups within the state. Here is some added commentary offered in support of going back to what the state had before: Employers can be hit with an extra $50,000 to $300,000 in punitive and compensatory damages under the law enacted in 2009. The damages will increase over time because they are indexed to the rate of inflation. Wisconsin’s Fair Employment Act worked well for years without the added compensatory punitive damages. Is it good public policy to add incentives for plaintiffs’ attorneys to sue businesses?
mau February 25, 2012 at 03:57 PM
I don't know what the Assembly bill number is but here is the companion Senate version. Senate version SB202. Read the bill text. https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2011/proposals/sb202 Read the responses to another "the sky is falling" story like this one. http://www.cafemom.com/group/115890/forums/read/16041446/Wisconsin_Assembly_Officially_Ends_Employment_Discrimination_Remedies
Terry Ott February 25, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Cynthia, I worked in Human Resource including compensation management for many years in one of those Best-Places-for-Women employers. The "77 cents on the dollar" reference isn't, in my opinion, very helpful to our cause, simply because it's so easy to discredit by citing the more sophisticated research from credible sources. I started seriously tracking this subject matter in the early 1980's, and wrote on the subject back then to help HR professionals understand the research and get beyond the hyperbole. I continue to think that's important in pushing toward solutions for the portion of gender-based pay gaps that ARE the legacy of systemic discrimination. This is pretty current and while not comprehensive it is a good start: http://www.city-journal.org/2011/21_3_gender-gap.html
Cynthia February 25, 2012 at 05:06 PM
I worked construction for 7 years......... Only female in the field... ya know what?? I was paid more then most of the guys because I was dedicated, did not make excuses as to why something could NOT be done, I did it no matter how crappy it was... I mumbled under my breath many times doing the crappy work, but ya know what? I did it.... while the men on the job would make excuses why it could not be done... it got me raises and higher pay... also it helped that I did not drink, so when some emergency or something came up they knew they could count on me because #1) I knew my job #2) I was reliable #3) I was dedicated #4) I answered my phone #5) My Grandma didn't die every other month. #6) I was sober. A wage should be about value........ That's where people get it wrong...
C. Sanders February 25, 2012 at 07:12 PM
@Cynthia ... you are spot on! It's the value one brings to the job that makes the difference, and not just their seniority. Great to read about your $$$ success!
Quint Canard February 25, 2012 at 07:28 PM
I would suggest the recent improvements in pay disparity are a result of the great recession, it's disparate impact on male-dominated, higher-paying work and the overall stagnation in wages.
Terry Ott February 25, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Hat's off to you, Cynthia. Excellent comment. I started up and headed a small service-related profit center within a large company. Everyone was a smart, hard worker with strong teamwork values and modest egos. Four of the 10 or so professional people I hired were women. One of those transferred to another area of the company and then left after a while for a chance to join a smaller firm. Another transferred to do work for which she was better suited, then became a corporate executive in her home town. The other two advanced within the firm. One took my job when I moved to another role and is now the Co-President of a global business center, the other is a senior partner and handles huge client relationships. They all displayed the attitude you described and were rewarded in their careers. I love stories like that. None of them had the slightest bit of "woe is me-ism" in their DNA. Any woman who gets a great start in a career, and keeps their eyes open if they get restless is "golden". I've seen it happen over and over.
Lyle Ruble February 25, 2012 at 10:47 PM
@mau...Thanks for the links. Now I'm no longer in the dark. Now I expect the snarkisms to come out. However, this isn't directly about equal pay for equal work. This is a tort reform bill limiting compensation and punitive damages to successful plaintiffs. Representative Mason, if you would have come out with that in the first place, then we would have something to debate. I am generally opposed to this type of limitation. My logic goes something like this: 1. Some employers make a habit of restricting pay for certain employees based on gender. 2. Under current law this is not a legal practice. 3. Complaints seeking reinstatement and back pay do not sufficiently penalize guilty employers. 4. Only the threat of compensatory and punitive damages of sufficient size will provide a negative incentive to continue to break the employment law. 5. Removing compensatory and punitive damages discourage plaintiffs from coming forward to make claims for their rights of redress. It also discourages attorneys for taking on such claims. Without compensatory and punitive damage penalties, businesses stand to gain an advantage over workers and continue their bad HR practices.
Terry Ott February 26, 2012 at 01:26 AM
@Lyle Ruble ... If as you say "Some employers make a habit of restricting pay for certain employees based on gender", then we have a class within the company that can bring charges of systematic discrimination. Those cases can be brought under Federal Law, involving the EEOC. Punitive damages are allowed depending on the facts of the case Novartis, for example, had to pay $250 million in punitive damages (2010) on top of back pay which was already in the millions.... for its female sales employees. Any employment lawyer would GLADLY take a class action gender discrimination suit if the evidence is strong. And the EEOC has plenty of resources, muscle, and experience --- so why would an aggrieved person or class want to take its case to a State agency in the first place? So, I don't think the limitation on damages in WI suits is terribly important in cases like these. Even an individual case, one involving say $10,000 a year of discriminatory "underpayment" for several years, is a sizable penalty for the employer.
Lyle Ruble February 26, 2012 at 01:49 AM
@Terry Ott...Obviously big employers are subject to class actions, but in this case we are probably talking about small enterprises. When I was in business, I saw a lot exceptionalism practiced in small firms. It just seems to me this is a backhanded way of doing specific tort reform. I know the tort reform legislation passed earlier that was sponsored by Vos was probably due to the case he lost and then he pushed for limits on attorney compensation. I'm really cynical about this and I look to who is going to benefit the most.
Adam Wienieski February 26, 2012 at 08:44 PM
@Terry Ott, thank you for informative article at City Pages. Ironically, it is our young men who appear to be at risk now. The traditional male model of patriarch and bread winner is no longer relevant to a majority of young men. For years now women have earned more high school diplomas, BA's, MA's and doctoral degrees than men. They live longer, are more likely to be employed and as your article points out when you control for time worked and time off for children the gender gap disappears. Charles Murray posits that the values of hard work, religious faith, and family commitment embodying the "American way of life" have been replaced with something else. Entrenched bureaucracies like the gender-grievance industry only obscure this larger cultural development.
Quiet Observer February 27, 2012 at 05:09 AM
Does Mr Mason ever respond? Or does only do drive by commentaries?
Chris Wright March 28, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Politifact responded to this statement with a "Mostly False" rating. http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2012/mar/12/cory-mason/wisconsin-gop-bill-would-repeal-law-ensuring-pay-e/
Terry Ott March 29, 2012 at 04:34 AM
Seems it isn't common for Politifact to skewer a Democrat, or is that just my impression? They did, though, point out some problems with a recent Kathleen Falk allegation re: jobs in the state. Regardless, I am pleased they took the time and effort to swat down this pointless rant by Mason. After all, rumor has it that the MilwJS has a LITTLE bit higher readership (quantity, not intellect) than the Patch.

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