Too many Ohioans are living in difficult economic times. Things are even harder for families with two wage earners when women are consistently paid almost one-fourth less than what men earn, often for doing the same job.
Wage inequality is persistent, unfair, unnecessary — and real. Nationally, women’s earnings, on average, were only 76.5 percent of men’s earnings in 2012, down from 77 percent in 2011.
The earnings of African-American women were 68.6 percent of all men’s earnings. For Latina women, the figure was just 57.5 percent.
It’s far too easy for opponents to call wage inequality a “women’s issue.” That oversimplification is a distraction from the truth: This is a family issue.
Women earned an average salary of $37,791 in 2012, the most recent year for which figures are available, compared to $49,398 for men — a difference of $11,607. As long as income inequality is allowed to persist, we are cheating families.
What could your family do with $11,607? Could you get the repairs that might let you hang onto your minivan for a few more years? Would you get the new washer and dryer you know you need, but can’t afford? Could you finally start saving for retirement, or putting money in your child’s college savings plan the way you know you should, but haven’t been able to because the money wasn’t there?
Giving families more earning power is a net positive for our economy. Families with more money to spend will help put more revenue into Ohio businesses. No family should be deprived of its full earning potential because of something that is inherently unfair. We should be giving Ohio families a chance to get ahead, not just get by.
Nationally, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act enables workers to bring their claims to a federal court to seek justice. When it comes to equal pay protection, Ohio law should match federal law, for both consistency and convenience.
Ohio workers who seek such protection should be able to do so in state court. They should not be forced to go to federal court, which can be prohibitively inconvenient. Nor should Ohio employers be forced to confront two different sets of laws.
The Ohio Equal Pay Act, which I am sponsoring, would protect Ohio families from paycheck inequality. It would help ensure they can maximize their income potential.
Families have it tough these days. Making things just a little easier for them is reasonable and smart. Pay equity is good for our families and good for our economy.
State Rep. Connie Pillich of Montgomery is the Democratic candidate for Ohio Treasurer.