Sen. Breen recognizes Equal Pay Day
AUGUSTA — April 4 is Equal Pay Day, the point in the new year by which white women nationally have finally earned what men earned in the previous year. Women of color must work even longer into the new year to reach the threshold of what men earn in just 12 months.
According to data from the US Census Bureau and US Department of Labor, Maine women make 79 cents on the dollar earned by men. White women in Maine working at full-time jobs earn $36,137 compared to men, who make $45,784. For women, this gap represents 73 more weeks of food for her family, seven more months of mortgage and utilities payments, or an extra year of rent.
The wage gap causes near-term disparity between equally qualified men and women. Over time, the gap grows into a wide chasm: By age 59, it costs American women and their families $531,502 on average, driving down their social security payments in retirement years.
Sen. Cathy Breen of Falmouth is the lead Senate Democrat on the Legislature’s budget-writing Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee. She commemorated Equal Pay Day by highlighting her bill LD 1259, which takes aim at the income disparity between men and women by prohibiting workplace practices that perpetuate the wage gap.
“An Act Regarding Pay Equality” would ban employers from asking prospective employees about their salary history, a practice that turns the wage gap into an albatross around women’s necks. The bill asks Maine to recognize that salaries should be based on market value, job performance and credentials, not prior salaries that may not reflect the true value of the worker.
The bill would also allow workers to freely discuss their salaries without fear of punishment, bringing much-needed transparency to unfair wage disparity between workers, including between men and women.
“Our goal should be to eliminate Equal Pay Day from the calendar forever,” said Sen. Breen. “This bill will put women on better footing to earn what they deserve, but its benefits extend far beyond gender. All workers deserve the security of knowing that they aren’t being undervalued on the job for reasons of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or anything else aside from their job performance and experience.”
LD 1259 will be the subject of a public hearing before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee in the coming weeks.