(WOMENSENEWS)–Polls consistently show that a majority of Americans surveyed would like to fix a gender wage gap that leaves women earning 78 cents for every dollar earned by men.
And it’s not an overridingly partisan issue.
Sixty-five percent of Republicans in a January survey conducted for Make It Work, a campaign pushing to advance economic security for U.S. families, said they believe that equal pay, paid leave and affordable, accessible day care are good for the nation.
The issue has barely surfaced on the campaign trail so far, but Donald Trump, for one, has expressed qualified support.
The CEO of the Trump Organization in New York City told CNN in August that he supported equal pay for women but doesn’t want it to be a “negative where everybody ends up making the same pay because that is not our system. One of the problems you have is when you get an economy where there is no longer a free enterprise economy.”
Trump said he paid his female employees the same or even more than the men. During a discussion of equal pay on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe Report” in August, Trump told Mika Brzezinski that he would “pay her so much more than co-host Joe Scarborough that her head would swim.” It was a laugh line, since in 2014, Brzezinski launched a tour, “know your value” after she learned she was paid less than Scarborough.
The former CEO of Hewlett-Packard has sent mixed messages on the trail. The business executive, who lost to Democrat Barbara Boxer in her bid for the U.S. Senate seat from California, was asked at a press conference in South Carolina in May whether she supported equal pay. Fiorina replied “of course.”
“There are plenty of laws in place today that women can look to if she’s truly discriminated against at work, where she is actually earning less for the same job as her male counterpart,” Fiorina said.
The former Florida governor has made no mention of the pay gap so far on the campaign trail that we can find.
When asked at a rally in Michigan for Terri Lynn Land, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in October 2014, whether Land should support the Paycheck Fairness Act, Bush said: “What’s the Pay Check Fairness Act?”
The retired Maryland neurosurgeon hasn’t said anything that we could detect on the issue during his campaigning. But he has commented on the minimum wage, an issue related to the wage gap since women’s domination in low-wage jobs contributes to the gap.
In the Sept. 16 GOP debate he endorsed the concept of two minimum wages–a “beginning” minimum wage for young people and a “sustainable” one for other workers. Carson predicted that a uniform higher minimum wage would hurt young people because it would make it impossible for companies to hire them.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie hasn’t mentioned the wage gap on the trail so far. But he has a history on this issue as governor.
In 2012, the New Jersey legislature passed four equal pay bills. Christie signed the measure that required employers to notify their employees that they had a right to be free from pay and benefits discrimination.
He vetoed a second bill that called for government contractors to report compensation information broken down by gender to the New Jersey Department of Labor, saying the “requirements would fail to advance sound policy over senseless bureaucracy.”
Christie also issued two conditional vetoes. One bill provided for extended protections for employees who revealed discriminatory actions in their workplaces. The legislature went back to the drafting board and incorporated the measure into the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination Act, which Christie later signed.
The fourth bill, which was modeled after the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, made it easier for women to sue their employers if they were paid less. The legislature never revived the bill so Christie’s veto essentially killed the measure.
The Texas senator, a former Texas solicitor general, was quoted in April 2014 as saying that “equal pay for equal work has been the law for decades.”
In September 2014, Cruz was one of 43 Senate Republicans who unanimously voted to block the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have prohibited employers from preventing workers to talk about their pay and would have narrowed the criteria for justifying gender pay gaps.
In addition to calling the act “a trial lawyers’ bonanza,” Cruz denounced the Democrats’ backing as “political show votes.” Cruz claimed that President Barack Obama‘s executive order banning salary secrecy for federal contractors distracted attention from more important issues for women.
The South Carolina senator, a former judge advocate in the U.S. Air Force, considers equal pay a “shallow concept.” “It’s not about equality,” he said in June. “It’s about creating more opportunity for companies to be sued. It is designed to make people aggrieved with no solution at hand other than more lawsuits.”
The Louisiana governor signed the Louisiana Equal Pay Act in 2013. Although studies showed that pay discrimination was more prevalent in the private sector than among government employees, Louisiana Senate Republicans amended the act many times to limit its reach to governmental workers.
Louisiana women still have a long way to go to overcome discrimination. They earned 66.7 cents for every $1 that men earned in 2014, finds a report by the Washington-based Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Louisiana ranked 49th in the U.S. for equal pay, women’s overall earning potential and labor force participation, noted the nonprofit organization that studies poverty, welfare and other issues.
The Ohio governor has not commented on equal pay, but the gender gap in pay in his office was the highest among statewide office holders, found an analysis by the Dayton Daily News in April 2014. The newspaper noted that women working in Kasich’s office earned $9.82 an hour less on average than did men.
The Kentucky senator, a staunch libertarian, has compared the Paycheck Fairness Act to laws passed under communism. “In the Soviet Union, the Politburo decided the price of bread,” Paul was quoted as saying by several press agencies in June 2012. “They either had no bread or too much bread, so setting prices on wages by the government is always a bad idea.”
Paul, who has voted against the act multiple times, predicted that Americans would give up freedom if the act were approved. “The minute you set up a fairness czar to determine what wages are, you give away freedom,” he said in 2012. “When you give that power to someone to make decisions, they may discriminate in favor of whoever they want to discriminate in favor of unlike the market which just makes decisions on the ability to do the job.”
The Florida senator told CNN in 2014 that Democrats were supporting the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act to “score political points.” But their efforts are a waste of time, Rubio said, because the bill is a welfare plan for trial lawyers. Rubio also claimed that “an entire generation of young women is caught in low-paying jobs with no way to emerge from that into a better paying job.”
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