"Equal pay for equal work" is the message the House Commerce and Human Resources Committee wants to declare each year in the state of Idaho. The House unanimously passed a bill to recognize Equal Pay Day, which would be meant to highlight the disparity in wages between men and women in the state and the nation.
Rep. Anne Pasley-Stuart, D-Boise, brought the bill to help citizens remember that the wage gap between the genders, while slowly closing overall, is still in effect. She said that women now make up 50.3 percent of the working class and are now enrolling in college, law school, and medical school at higher rates than men, and women deserve the be paid equal to their male counterparts.
Under her legislation, Idaho would commemorate Equal Pay Day each year, though the day would not be finite date on the calendar. The selection of the date would be determined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which is charged with monitoring demographics in the labor market. The concept behind the date the bureau would pick is that it represents how much extra time it would take women to make what men make in one year. April 20, 2010, is the date picked for 2009, which shows that it takes women four extra months and 20 additional days to make what a man made in the year 2009. Last year Equal Pay Day was held April 28, which, to Pasley-Stuart, shows progress. As the wage gap continues to close, Equal Pay Day will be designated for a date closer to the beginning of each year.
Though the bill focuses on the plight of women in the country, Pasley-Stuart doesn't want to send the wrong message with the legislation.
"It's not anti-business, it's not anti-government ... and it's certainly not anti-men," said Pasley-Stuart.
Rep. Elfreda Higgins, D-Garden City, one of the bill's co-sponsors, said that "a woman earns 77 cents for every dollar a man makes," and said that the gap had been closing at the rate of less than 1 cent a year over the last 40 years. Higgins felt that isn't good enough and the recognition of Equal Pay Day would help to close that gap.
The bill's other co-sponsor, Rep. Pat Takasugi, R-Wilder, said he "hopes there will come a day when a legislator will come forward and say 'we no longer need this (Equal Pay Day)' because it has become unnecessary."