Politics

Gender Pay Equality An Issue In Final Days Of Wisconsin Gubernatorial Race

| by Jared Keever

Two years after repealing a law that made it easier for women to sue in court for equal pay, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, has run a campaign ad that claims he is a staunch supporter of equal pay for women.

The Huffington Post reports Walker’s campaign released the ad soon after polls indicated he is running even with his Democratic challenger Mary Burke.

“Under Scott Walker, workplace discrimination will always be illegal for any reason,” Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch claims in the ad. “Mary Burke wants to create more opportunities to sue. We want to create more opportunities for women to succeed.”

Burke has attacked Walker throughout her campaign for repealing Wisconsin's Equal Pay Enforcement Act in 2012. 

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“Following Scott Walker's repeal in 2012 of protections against gender discrimination, Wisconsin is now one of just five states without an equal pay law,” Burke said in an April campaign speech. 

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported at the time that Burke pledged to reinstate the 2009 legislation if she were elected governor.

Although gender-based discrimination is illegal in Wisconsin under the state’s Fair Employment Act, the 2009 law gave the employment act more teeth, according to Salon.

Walker has never said publicly why he signed the repeal of the enforcement act. But Republicans who supported repealing the law said doing so was needed because the law led to frivolous lawsuits.

“It’s an underreported problem, but a huge number of discrimination claims are baseless," said Republican state Sen. Glenn Grothman shortly after Walker signed the repeal. 

But state Rep. Christine Sinicki, a Democrat who co-authored the equal pay bill, said the law had an effect on employers and didn’t increase the number of lawsuits.

“Since the law was put into place, employers actually took notice and were very conscious of the fact that they had to follow this law or they were at risk of a lawsuit,” she said in 2012. 

Marcy Stech, a spokeswoman for the political action committee EMILY’s List, said the new ad is misleading and likely motivated by the close race.

“Walker and Kleefisch know that their record is out of step with the women of Wisconsin whose votes they are desperate to capture — so blurring their record is their only option,” Stech said. “Voters are too smart to fall for these last-ditch efforts to mask Walker's record of working against economic opportunity for women.”

Sources: The Huffington Post, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Salon

Photo Source: WRN/Jackie JohnsonYouTube