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Gov. Scott Walker Repeals Wisconsin Equal Pay Law

By Samantha Abernethy in News on Apr 8, 2012 9:00PM

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a law Thursday that will repeal the state's Equal Pay Enforcement Act, a 2009 bill that had offered legal avenues to fight wage discrimination. The state Senate signed off on the bill in November, and the state Assembly followed in February. In both chambers, it was a party-line vote.

At the same time, Walker signed in a couple of other contentious items. He signed a bill that requires schools to "stress abstinence" in sex education and now allows teachers to "ignore contraception completely" as part of the curriculum. Walker also signed two bills regarding abortion "requiring doctors to consult privately with women seeking abortions and blocking abortion coverage through health care exchanges." Walker apparently signed all of these items on Thursday, but waited until late Friday to announce it, a handy tactic to make sure it gets lost from the news cycle.

State Sen. Glenn Grothman introduced the bill to repeal the Equal Pay Enforcement Act last fall, and it passed the senate in November with a party-line vote. If his name sounds familiar to you, there's a reason. He is the one who introduced a law linking single parenthood to child abuse. On the equal pay repeal, Grothman says companies are bombarded with false accusations. He also told the Daily Beast he thinks the wage gap is a myth.

“Take a hypothetical husband and wife who are both lawyers,” he says. “But the husband is working 50 or 60 hours a week, going all out, making 200 grand a year. The woman takes time off, raises kids, is not go go go. Now they’re 50 years old. The husband is making 200 grand a year, the woman is making 40 grand a year. It wasn’t discrimination. There was a different sense of urgency in each person.”

He continues, “What you’ve got to look at, and Ann Coulter has looked at this, is you have to break it down by married and unmarried. Once you break it down by married and unmarried, the differential disappears.”


When I ran the numbers by him, he replied, “The American Association of University Women is a pretty liberal group.” Nor, he argued, does its conclusion take into account other factors, like “goals in life. You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious. To attribute everything to a so-called bias in the workplace is just not true.”

See more Wisconsin pay statistics on the DOL website.
The Equal Pay Enforcement Act offered legal repercussions for employees discriminated against based on race, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation or other factors. As for Grothman's claim of companies being hit with claims, the Daily Beast reports "that in the two years the law was in effect, not a single equal-pay lawsuit was filed." But employers must've made strides to In 2009, Wisconsin ranked 36th for gender-parity. In 2010, it had climbed to 24th. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, seen in the chart here, show the pay gap narrowing sharply after the passing of the Equal Pay Act in 2009.

Walker's recall opponents were quick to jump on the issue. Former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk told the Huffington Post Walker has "turned back the clock for women across Wisconsin." Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's campaign said Walker's "ideological civil war includes a war on women, and repeal today of this protection against pay discrimination is a major step backwards for Wisconsin values and basic fairness."

President Barack Obama's campaign responded by to Walker's move by calling on Mitt Romney to take his position on the issue. Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith told the Washington Post:

As he campaigned across Wisconsin, Mitt Romney repeatedly praised Governor Scott Walker's leadership, calling him a 'hero' and 'a man of courage.' But with his signing yesterday of a bill make it harder for women to enforce in court their right to equal pay, Walker showed how far Republicans are willing to go to undermine not only women's health care, but also their economic security. Does Romney think women should have ability to take their bosses to court to get the same pay as their male coworkers? Or does he stand with Governor Walker against this?