Everything's Bigger in Rick Perry's Texas, Except a Woman's Right to Equal Pay

Today is Women's Equality Day.  The day is a celebration of the passage of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote.  The 19th Amendment became law in 1920.  Almost 100 years later women are still fighting to be treated equally.

It was 1963, when I was only 6 years old, that the Equal Pay Act became the law.  At the time women made 59 cents for ever dollar a man made.  In the following fifty years that gender gap has only increased 18 cents, to 77 cents.  That means that we have moved at a rate of about 1 cent per every 2 ½ years towards gender equality in pay.    It also means that women in America, working in the same job as a man, doing the same quality of work as a man, work until April 9th for free.  On average, women earn $10,000 less per year than men.  Over a life-time that mean that a woman with a high school diploma will earn $700,000 less than a man with a high school degree.  Woman who graduate from college will earn less than men with a college degree by over One Million Dollars, and Professional Women will earn less than a similarly educated man  by roughly 2 Million Dollars.

The State of Texas is one of the bright hopes for the economy in America. Texas ranks second in the country for economic growth, at 4.8 percent.  Texas GDP growth from 2009 to 2012 was 13 percent. Texas job creation is far ahead of the national average. Since 1995 the nation job growth has been 12% but Texas has been an impressive 31.5 percent.    Even more impressive is the increase of high paying jobs in Texas.  Texas has only 8 percent of the U.S. population but created 33 percent of the country's highest paying jobs, while the rest of the country lost 174,000 jobs in that category.  Additionally the number of people moving to Texas is breathtaking.  Houston has become the country's fifth largest metroplex, and the Dallas-Ft.Worth Metroplex was already the fourth-largest.  For the first time since keeping records, two of the top five cities in population in the country lay within the borders of a single state.  Add to that the fact that Austin ranked as the fastest growing city with more than 1 million residents.

Given this incredible rate of growth, it would be logical to conclude that Texas leads the country in favorable treatment of women in the work force.  Women currently make up 46.9 percent of the work force, and hold 51.5 percent of the management, professional and related positions in America.

Yet women are still underpaid in Texas relative to their male counterparts.  The wage gap in Texas in 18.2 percent.

How could that happen?  President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as his first bill after taking office in January 2008.  Four-and-one-half years later, women are still being paid less than men.  We were aware that reproductive rights in Texas were under attack.  However it could be argued that the reason for this conservative approach related to the general conservative, religious fervor of the Texas population.  However demanding equal pay for an equal performance of the same job can't be attributed to a "conservative" or "religious" point of view.  Fundamental fairness would dictate that any person, male, female, black, white, or poka-dotted should receive the same payment upon performing the same job with the same degree of skill.  Evidently not in Texas.

If you were thinking there is a misogynistic, discriminatory attitude in Texas, you would be right.  Rick Perry is the General in the War on Women.  In a recent legislative effort in the Texas Congress, both the Republican controlled House and Senate, legislators passed a law mirroring the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  Under current federal law a woman who had suffered discrimination in unfair pay can bring suit within 180 days of the employer's decision to underpay her, whether she knows of the decision or not.  Under the new law in Texas a woman would have had 180 to bring suit after the receipt of payment that was unfair.  This new law would have allowed more time for a woman to bring suit and would improve the likelihood that she would know that she had a cause of action.  This new law would also have allowed the woman to bring suit in State Court, which would make suit easier for women around the state who live in rural towns, far away from a federal court.  Governor Rick Perry vetoed the law, passed by both Republican-dominated Houses of the Texas Legislature.  

The disparity in pay is particularly offensive given the fact that for more than 20 years women have outnumbered men  in college.

Even more troublesome is the fact that four in ten American households with children under age 18 have a mother who is the primary bread winner.  Since 1960 the number of women who work as the primary breadwinner in the family has quadrupled.  Thus, four times as many women are now the dominant, or primary breadwinner, but they are still making 18 cents less, per dollar, than men.  That means that on average, a male attorney in Texas making $100,000, who may have no children to support, is getting paid $12,000 per year more than his female counter-part, who may be responsible for the support of one or more children.  Rick Perry not only thinks that is alright, but he is so committed to this unequal system, that he vetoed a bill supported by his fellow Republicans in the Texas Congress.

If Texas is to continue to lead the country in economic growth and job creation, we must become a leader in the country and demand equal pay for equal work, for everyone.

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