On Monday Governor Doyle signed the Equal Pay Enforcement Act into law. The law will more effectively guard against pay discrimination by employers. A primary goal of the law is to help close the still glaring wage gap between women and men, but it will also cover other areas of pay discrimination. In the battle for equal pay it will serve as one of the toughest laws in the nation. The signing caused all of the howling that we would unfortunately expect from the right wing and their corporate masters.
Who could possibly be against the idea of more aggressively fighting pay discrimination? Well apparently Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) is and he can't wait to tell us how "outraged" he is about it. Why am I not surprised that the same guy that fought the Martin Luther King holiday years after the right wing gave up on the issue, is also leading the charge against stronger pay discrimination laws?
Amidst his wailing over the issue, he does a lot of complaining about the punitive damages that are possible under the law. In his press release he says, "Senate Bill 20 can give up to $300,000 in punitive damages to people who claim they were discriminated against." (emphasis mine) That is not correct, he is being deceptive and he knows it. It can give up to $300,000 to people that have already gone through several layers of fact finding and legal proceedings and have already PROVEN that they were discriminated against. Grothman deceptively tries to make it sound like just anyone that files a claim can get in line for 300k, which simply has no basis in reality. So apparently Glenn Grothman is mad because we are exposing employers that have already been proven to have discriminated to a possible $300,000 in punitive damages. Cry me a river Glenn. He then goes on to undercut his own argument by admitting that the vast majority of claims don't ever go nearly far enough to even think about punitive damages.
We know that Wisconsin's big business lobby, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) has long been against such tough equal pay legislation. So it is no surprise at all, that they trotted out all of their favorite alarmist talking points. The tactic that they chose to use in their press release is also no surprise. WMC has a long pattern of not giving one hoot about crime or criminals until they want to find a way to use those issues to scare or otherwise influence the public. On the equal pay issue they fall, as if by default, back to that tired tactic. Reading their press release, if you didn't know better, you would think that this new law was meant to solely protect the rights of convicted felons. If employers are breaking the law by discriminating against convicted felons then they should be held accountable, but that is not the solitary focus of this law even if WMC is trying to spin it as such. It is about more aggressively fighting employer pay discrimination against many groups including women and older employees. While WMC tries to use nearly their entire press release to make this only about convicted felons, they go back to what they really care about when they list 20-plus of their other recent gripes. I'll give you a hint, none of them have anything to do with criminals but they do have everything to do with big corporate interests.
The new equal pay law was the right thing to do, even though it brought out such inferior spin from the right.