Pay equity commission stuck in committee
LANSING — A bill to create a commission on pay equity is stalled in the House Government Operations Committee, but it might get a chance in December.
The Commission on Pay Equity, as it would be known, would “develop definitions of comparable wages, using the criteria of composite skills, responsibility, effort, education or training, and working conditions,” according to the bill.
Karla Swift, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, said she would like to see the bill passed in the lame-duck session in December.
Reps. Dian Slavens, D-Canton, and Marcia Hovey-Wright, D-Muskegon, along with about 30 other representatives, sponsored the bill.
“The commission would be a place for everyday people to get in contact with representatives who serve the underserved in our workforce,” Swift said. “It would work together to give advice on which policies were helpful and which were not.”
Problems that would be addressed by the commission would include policy on equal pay for equal work, paid sick leave and maternity and medical leave.
On average, women in Michigan are paid 74 cents for every dollar a man is paid doing the same work.
If enacted, the governor would appoint members from a number of Michigan associations, including Small Business Association of Michigan, the Michigan Women’s Commission, Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO, United Auto Workers, National Organization for Women, Michigan Women’s Studies Association and Michigan Farm Bureau. The directors of the Department of Civil Rights and the Michigan Economic Development Corp. would have seats.
The bill has been in committee since April.
Both the Small Business Association of Michigan and Michigan Economic Development Corp. declined to take a stance on the bill.
Vicki Levengood, the communications director at the Department of Civil Rights, said, “We haven’t seen leadership or state legislation take on this issue.”
However, she said that she feels “confident that a commission would bring more laser-like focus on the issue of pay equity. It would find roadblocks and ways to get around them.”
Levengood said that increasing penalties for sex-based discrimination and allowing employees to know what others are making are possible ways to discourage the pay gap.
Since the enactment of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the wage gap has closed by only 16 cents per hour, Levengood said, and within the past decade, progress has slowed considerably.
The department “has long urged that men and women are paid to the value of the work they perform and not on the gender of the person performing,” Levengood said.