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Coalition pushing for equal pay law to be considered by Mississippi legislature in upcoming session

Coalition pushing for equal pay law to be considered by Mississippi legislature in upcoming session
Published: Dec. 22, 2021 at 8:33 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - There’s a growing chorus of organizations putting pressure on the legislature to put an equal pay law on the books in Mississippi. It is the only state in the country without an equal pay law.

“We’re at a place to where we are seeing some momentum, and we are having conversations early across the aisle about what needs to be an equal pay law,” explained Cassandra Welchlin, Executive Director of the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable. “Because we don’t want just any equal pay bill; we want to build what really has four components to it. That we know we’ll make sure that workers are protected, their paychecks are protected.”

The Mississippi Women’s Economic Security Initiative Coalitions wants to see more than just the baseline in a bill. They want to prevent employers from requesting a salary history and protect employees who discuss their pay from retaliation.

They’re also calling attention to the need to include language about not just gender but also race.

“Black women are making 56 cents on the dollar,” explained Welchlin. “And white women are making 75 cents on the dollar.”

Advocates say its imperative for lawmakers to look beyond the workplace impacts.

“Just closing the wage gap in our state would actually cut poverty in half,” said Tracy DeVries, Executive Director of the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi. “And that would have an amazing impact on our children. Like just, you know, just think about that from, like, that standpoint.”

“COVID had really brought this issue of like wages, and equity, and, you know, just pretty much workers’ rights into kind of pushed into the forefront where, you know, groups have been working on these issues for a long time,” noted Kyra Roby, policy analyst for One Voice. “But, you know, COVID kind of put it in everybody’s faces.”

Senator John Horhn chairs the Senate labor committee and held hearings on the issue this summer. He plans to file an equal pay bill when they return in January.

“There’s a federal law,” Horhn described. “And that’s the argument that that people may want... look, we already have a federal law. But every other state in the United States has passed an Equal Pay Bill, that does prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender. And I would urge all women from all walks of life in Mississippi to get behind this issue.”

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