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Massachusetts Senate passes bill to close gender wage gap

The Massachusetts Senate approved a bill Thursday that aims to close the wage gap in response to the fact that women now earn an average of $0.78 for every dollar a man makes. ILLUSTRATION BY JOHNNY LIU/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
The Massachusetts Senate approved a bill Thursday that aims to close the wage gap in response to the fact that women now earn an average of $0.78 for every dollar a man makes. ILLUSTRATION BY JOHNNY LIU/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey applauded the Massachusetts Senate in a Thursday statement for passing legislation to help close the wage gap between men and women and ensure equal pay for comparable work.

“I thank the Senate for its unanimous support for the pay equity bill today,” Healey said in the statement. “In particular, I want to thank Senators Spilka, Jehlen and Wolf. This important piece of legislation will incentivize businesses to do right by their employees — pay women equal wages for equal work. We know that in 40 percent of households, women are the primary or sole breadwinners.”

Healey said in her statement she hopes community involvement will help raise support for the bill.

“Pay equity is not only a woman’s issue, it’s a family issue. When women are paid fairly and equally, we strengthen the economic security of families and households,” Healey said in the statement. “I look forward to continuing to work with lawmakers, with the business community, and with advocates to get a law on the books that supports working women in our modern economy”

If passed by the Massachusetts House of Representatives, the bill will prohibit employers from discriminating based on gender and allow employees to be paid wages based on their differing responsibilities and skills, according to a Thursday press release. The bill will also encourage “pay transparency” that prohibits employers from banning employees from discussing wages.

Sen. Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, who sponsored the bill, said in the release that the bill’s passage is critical for pay equity in Massachusetts.

“Massachusetts was the first state to pass a pay equity law over seventy years ago, yet women in the Commonwealth still make only 82 cents for every dollar earned by a man,” Spilka said in the release. “Women working hard to support their families deserve fair pay, and this bill is an important step to close this unacceptable gap and ensure equal pay for equal work.”

Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst) said in the release now is the time to enact equal pay.

“When President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963, women earned 59 cents on the dollar,” Rosenberg said in the release. “It’s been 53 years, and we’ve closed the gap to 82 cents on the dollar in Massachusetts. We cannot — we will not — wait another half century to finally achieve equal pay for equal work. I look forward to working together with the Governor and Speaker to pass this critical piece of legislation.”

Nai Collymore-Henry is the policy and operations manager of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Organization for Women, which advocates for the advancement of “intersectional justice for people who identify as women and girls in the girl the Commonwealth,” according to the organization’s website.

Collymore-Henry said Mass NOW is working to ensure the bill’s implementation and eventual change.

“Mass NOW, the Equal Pay Coalition and the Women’s Bar Association has been working with lawmakers and has a lot of community support,” Collymore-Henry said. “In the coming weeks, Mass NOW will be phone banking, hosting a lobbying day and doing activities with various organizations in the Boston area talking about inequality. It’s important for people to hear and discuss things with their legislators.”

Several Boston residents expressed their support for the bill and it’s ability to tackle income inequality.

Michelle Lewis, 28, of Hyde Park, said as long as men and women provide the same work quality, they should be paid the same amount of money.

“It’s a good idea, because if we’re expected to have the same credentials, we should be expected to receive the same compensation,” she said.

Anamarie Aponte Rivera, 26, of Roxbury, said in contemporary society, women and men should have equal pay.

“It’s great,” she said. “What year is this? It’s 2016. I don’t think it should even be a question. I hope they get it approved by the House.”

Heather Barrett, 29, of Kenmore, said despite the slow progress of the bill’s passage, she hopes that the Massachusetts House of Representatives will approve of it.

“I think it’s nice to see [equal pay being addressed],” she said. “I hope it actually gets passed, because equal pay has been something that’s been trying to get passed since the 1920s.”

One Comment

  1. The bill will join the many other failed efforts over the last half century:

    -The 1963 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act
    -Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act
    -The 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act
    -Affirmative action (which has benefited mostly white women, the group most vocal about the wage gap –
    -The 1991 amendments to Title VII
    -The 1991 Glass Ceiling Commission created by the Civil Rights Act
    -The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act
    -The Age Discrimination in Employment Act
    -The Americans with Disability Act (Title I)
    -Workplace diversity
    -The countless state and local laws and regulations
    -The thousands of company mentors for women
    -The horde of overseers at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
    -TV’s and movies’ last three decades of casting women as thoroughly integrated into the world of work (even in the macho world of spying, James Bond’s boss is a woman)
    -The National Labor Relations Act
    -The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

    See why these measures have failed:

    “Salary Secrecy — Discrimination Against Women?”