MADISON, Wis. — Would you call paying men and women the same for doing the same work radical and anti-business? Two Wisconsin State Representatives, along with business and community leaders, denounced a fundraising plea to Wisconsin CEOs from the state big business lobby the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) that does.
“Women deserve to be paid equally. It’s a matter of fairness and economic prosperity,” said Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) “I challenge WMC to either pull their criticism of equal pay, or produce a single corporate member who thinks it’s okay to pay men and women unequally.”
In a recent fundraising plea seeking corporate donations for an advertising campaign so business’s point of view is “heard” the WMC, which simultaneously brags of having spent over $22 million on propaganda in recent years, raises the specter of radical, anti-business voices. According to the solicitation, among the ideas allegedly threatening corporate hegemony and our economy is paying men and women the same for doing the same job.
Lori Compas, business owner and Executive Director of the Wisconsin Business Alliance, commented, “I’m a small business owner myself, and in any given year at least 90% of my clients are women. Pay equity would certainly benefit my business and others like mine — it’s just simple logic that if women were paid the same as men, they would have more money to spend on goods and services in our communities.”
She continued, “It’s shocking to me that the WMC, an organization that claims to represent average business owners, could be so out of touch with reality. Women own more than 100,000 businesses in Wisconsin and I seriously doubt that whoever created this offensive graphic ran it by a single one of them.”
In 2009 Wisconsin adopted a law, proposed by State Rep. Chris Sinicki and others, to allow Wisconsinites who believed they were discriminated against on wages because of their gender, age or military status to go to state court to hold bad actors accountable. In 2012, at the behest of WMC and other corporate special interests, Gov. Walker and the GOP controlled legislature repealed the law.
Sinicki said, “The pay gap costs Wisconsin women over $12 billion a year. That’s $12 billion that’s not being spent buying houses, fixing cars, replacing appliances, taking vacations, or any of the other millions of ways Wisconsin families reinvest their paychecks into the local economy. The pay gap is terrible for business.”
“Our court system was designed and empowered to rectify egregious inequalities based on gender. It is the institutional curb to halt practices that treat women and others unfairly. When the doors to the courthouse are closed, employers are given carte blanche to ignore guarantees of fair and equitable wages,” noted Peg Lautenschlager, whose career includes stints as a District Attorney, State Representative, U.S. Attorney and Attorney General.
She added, “WMC fought hard to make it harder for women to get their day in court when demanding fair pay. Pay equity is a fundamental right for all citizens, and WMC’s actions to close the courthouse doors in these matters is nothing but an assault on all women and their families.”
“Women should earn equal pay for equal work!” said Martha De La Rosa state director with 9to5 Wisconsin. She noted the disparate impact of pay inequity saying, “In today’s economy, women are particularly vulnerable to economic hardship. Working women represent over half of the workforce and two-thirds of those workers are paid minimum wage or less. Therefore, women are most likely to live in poverty and rely on public assistance in order to make ends meet.”
Attorney and Dane County Board Supervisor Jenni Dye noted that state lobbying records show, the WMC, Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Wisconsin Grocers, the Wisconsin Builders, Wisconsin Insurance Alliance, Wisconsin Restaurant Association and other “business voices” registered in favor of the repeal of the state equal pay law.
Through their various associations’ political action committees (PACs), conduits, “issue advocacy” and donations to other groups like the Republican Governor’s Association and Wisconsin Club for Growth these groups have spent over $8 million in support of Gov. Walker — who signed the repeal of the state equal pay law — since 2009. Millions more have been spent on behalf of state legislators and even state supreme court justices who support and help advance their regressive agenda.
Dye concluded, “It’s offensive that WMC is trying to raise money off the suggestion that equal pay is a radical idea and it’s disappointing to think that Wisconsin businesses would contribute to such campaign. But it’s appalling that politicians are willing to tow the WMC line that presumes women are worth less than their male co-workers.”