Politicians say it’s time to pay equal salaries to Texas women

04/08/2014 5:32 PM

04/10/2014 3:42 AM

Some local politicians say it’s time to make sure that Texans get paid an equal salary for an equal day’s work.

On Tuesday, as a women’s political group called out Republican Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott for opposing policies to end gender discrimination in pay, a local Democrat running for the Texas Senate also challenged her Republican opponents to work with her to strengthen equal-pay laws.

“It is unconscionable that a woman must work a full 13 extra weeks in order to be paid as much as a man doing the same job,” said Fort Worth Democrat Libby Willis, who is running for Texas Senate District 10. “Whether we are working in an office, a factory or a restaurant, working women are still not receiving equal pay.”

White House statistics show that full-time working women earn 77 percent of what men are paid for doing the same job, meaning that women have to work about 60 extra days to earn what men did the previous year.

The pay gap is even bigger for women of color: African-American women receive 64 cents for every dollar earned by their white male counterparts. For Hispanic women, the figure is 56 cents.

In Texas, women earn about 79 percent of what men do, according to the National Committee on Pay Equity.

Last year, Fort Worth Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis — whose district Willis and Republicans Konni Burton of Colleyville and Mark Shelton of Fort Worth are seeking — championed a bill designed to prevent pay discrimination against women.

“This is a proud moment for Texas,” Davis said after the bill passed the Legislature.

Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, vetoed the bill as redundant.

“House Bill 950 duplicates federal law, which already allows employees who feel they have been discriminated against through compensation to file a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,” Perry said in a statement.

Abbott, who faces Davis in the governor’s race, has said he would have vetoed it as well because women can take any salary case to federal court.

Davis contends that her opponent has fought equal pay for women.

The San Antonio Express-News reported that Abbott’s office paid female assistant attorneys less than their male counterparts, generally because of their years of experience.

Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List, a national group that raises funds for Democratic candidates who favor abortion rights, blasted Texas Republicans’ handling of the issue, saying that “instead of pledging to expand economic opportunity for women and families, Greg Abbott is standing in their way.”

Abbott’s campaign responded Tuesday.

“Greg Abbott strongly supports equal pay and he supports the state and federal laws that already prohibit discrimination and provide an avenue to seek redress in the courts,” said Avdiel Huerta, a spokesman for Abbott’s campaign.

Senate race

In the battle for Senate District 10, Burton and Shelton head to a May 27 Republican primary runoff to determine who takes on Willis in November.

Davis has represented the district since 2009.

Burton, a leader in the NE Tarrant Tea Party, said Willis is pushing issues like this while avoiding “tackling serious issues facing Texans,” like the “crippling” impact of Obamacare.

Shelton, a pediatrician and former state representative who lost a bid for this seat in 2012, said no more legislation is necessary.

“Equal pay for equal work is the law of the United States and the state of Texas,” he said. “Current law should be enforced and additional laws are unneeded.”

Willis said something must be done.

“Republicans, Democrats and independents support equal pay for women,” she said. “Equal pay is not only a fairness issue, it’s a family economic issue.”

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