The current GOP talking points in Texas over equal pay—the reality of which is unequal pay, and unequal access to remedies for unequal pay—are the following:
- If women aren’t being paid equally, it is our own fault for being too busy and bad negotiators.
- The statistics are being oversimplified.
- The law in question that Perry vetoed, and Abbott (via surrogates) would veto, duplicated a federal law, and Texas never tries to do its own thing once the federal government has taken care of something.
- This one little law dealt with a narrow, technical detail and wouldn’t really have done anything to equalize pay.
- We’re kind of tired of hearing about this, laydeez.
First point: I’m not going to dignify the first bullet with a response. You’ve got the internet, you figure it out. If you’re truly stumped, here you go.
Second point: the statistics are being oversimplified? No, they’re being generalized, but the fact is that even when you control for factors like age and experience, and compare apples to apples as far as job function goes, in almost every profession, white women earn less than men, and women of color earn even less than the white women. Here are two articles, from Time and Forbes, which compare different studies and show that, even when the gap isn’t as wide as the oft-cited 77¢ to the $1, it persists, and raise some of other harder to quantify factors that impact the disparity.
Greg Abbott tried to use the ‘differences in education and experience’ line to explain away accusations of unequal pay in the Texas Office of the Attorney General. Well, shame on him, because the San Antonio Express News reported:
Equal pay for women is in the spotlight of the Texas governor’s race, and figures from Attorney General Greg Abbott’s state agency show most female assistant attorneys general make less on average than do men in the same job classification.
Abbott’s office said the difference is explained by the amount of time that the men have been licensed as lawyers and have served at the agency.
But drilling down into different classifications of assistant attorney general, the figures provided by Abbott’s office show there isn’t always a direct correlation between such experience and pay.
And of the top 20 highest-paid employees at the agency, just three are women, February salary figures provided to the San Antonio Express-News show. Of the 100 top positions, 37 are held by women.
The story digs deep and shows that it may expand and contract at different tiers, but the disparity is there, it is persistent, and it is pervasive.
[Side note: say you and Greg Abbott wants to stick by his surrogate’s assertion that women don’t get equal pay because they are too busy and bad negotiators. Does that mean all of the women he hires at the AG’s office are poor time managers who can’t negotiate? Aren’t those critical skills for lawyers? What kind of boss would he be for hiring them, then? I think you’d be hard-pressed to get the women in his office to admit to being too busy to negotiate well. I’d sure love to know how their next round of reviews and salary negotiations will go.]
Third point: Why do we need an improved state court remedy when we have a federal court remedy?
Because we don’t really have the same opportunities to access federal courts as we do state courts.
Because in Texas, access to justice is woefully unequal, and to tell Texans they can “just” go to federal court is as insulting as telling people that the main road from the RGV to San Antonio is “peculiarly flat and not congested.”
There are fewer federal courts in Texas than state courts, the distances between them are vast, and there aren’t enough judges to get the work done. Thanks to Senator Ted Cruz, vacancies on the federal bench in our state are legion, with numbers in the southern and eastern districts among some of the worst in the nation.
Be wary when Greg Abbott is the one telling you that you have adequate remedies in the courts. This is a man with a proven track record of restricting access to courts and limiting consumer and individual protections at the bar.
I will say this, furthermore, until both I and the great state of Texas are blue in the face: it is just rich that Greg Abbott, who himself benefited tremendously from a state court remedy when he was injured through no fault of his own, has made a career out of denying remedies to other Texans harmed through no fault of their own.
Equally rich? Greg Abbott and Rick Perry saying hey, Texans like to let go & let Uncle Sam when it comes to major policy issues. Medicaid expansion … women’s health program … Greg Abbott’s claim that he goes to work only to sue the federal government … yep, Abbott and Perry are just go along, get along guys, right?
Four: True, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was written to address a narrow, technical issue. Does that mean it doesn’t matter?
Democracy in action is slow, messy, and incremental, but we’re a county that likes big, bold, immediate results. Those great moment of sweeping change are rare, and often only visible in hindsight.
That doesn’t mean the incremental changes aren’t vitally important, and it insults women who’ve lost the chance to challenge discrimination in court to say so.
Five. We know we can turn the ship of government around, and we believe government exists to serve the people.
That’s why we press hard to churn through those incremental improvements.
That’s why we will keep talking about unequal pay even if some politicians and some reporters are tired of it.
We’ll keep talking about it because there is one thing far more tedious and tiresome than talking about unequal pay. It is living with unequal pay, something too many women deal with all.the.damn.time.