Across gender, race and age, we all deserve equal opportunity under the law. On Tuesday’s Equal Pay Day, we are reminded that for many women in America—and right here in Wisconsin—equal opportunity is not yet a reality.

The timing of Equal Pay Day is symbolic, meant to recognize just how far into the year women have to work in order to catch up with what men made in the previous year.

Whether working full time or part time, women deserve equal pay for the work they do. But not all of Wisconsin’s elected officials agree with that.

While they were in office, Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch—now a gubernatorial candidate—repealed Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Law, removing vital protections for victims of wage discrimination.

In 2021, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson opposed legislation put forth by the Biden administration that would hold employers accountable for unequal pay practices.

Johnson said in a news release that he opposed Biden’s Paycheck Fairness Act because it would “harm our economy” and that women haven’t been discriminated against in the workplace since the 1960s.

But here’s the thing: Sen. Johnson isn’t doing his research. If he did, he would know that the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent data shows the average woman makes just 82 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts.

He would also know that the National Women’s Law Center reported last year that Black women in Wisconsin are paid just 59 cents for every dollar made by white men.

These numbers don’t take into account all the unpaid labor women are expected to take on, a phenomenon that has only grown as the COVID-19 pandemic has swept the world.

According to American Progress, four times more women than men have dropped out of the workforce during the pandemic, erasing decades of progress made on gender equality in the workplace. That works out to millions fewer women working now than in the months leading up to the pandemic.

In addition to those who had to drop out of the workforce completely because of the pandemic, many women who stayed have been forced to reduce their working hours to keep up with the increase in care-giving that so often unevenly falls on women.

While Republican leaders choose to ignore that, Gov. Tony Evers is taking real action. His plan for Wisconsin’s budget surplus, which Republican legislators have refused to take up, provides a tax credit for caregivers in Wisconsin and a $150 rebate to families around the state.

This Equal Pay Day, though, we can demand progressive change by telling our elected officials that equality in the workplace can’t wait. Let Sen. Johnson know that paying women what they deserve is not a harm to the economy.

Chris Walloch is the executive director at A Better Wisconsin Together.


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