PORTLAND – Tuesday marked Maine’s Equal Pay Day and U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud used it as an opportunity to raise awareness about Maine’s wage gap.
“Despite the strides we’ve made in recent years, women continue to earn 21 percent less than their male counterparts for doing the same work in Maine,” Michaud said. “That pay gap could make a big difference in the lives of many women and families. It could mean the difference between their children having shoes and clothes that fit, having enough money to buy groceries and heat their homes and having more time to help their kids with their homework.”
Maine commemorates Equal Pay Day the first Tuesday of April as part of legislation Michaud introduced and passed as Senate President in 2001. The legislation also called for the Department of Labor to release a report annually on Equal Pay Day to the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee about the progress the state has made toward ensuring equal pay.
“While the wage gap is a national issue, there are concrete and common-sense things we can do in Maine to make our state a national leader in fair pay, but we need a governor who is willing to take action. Gov. LePage is moving us backwards,” Michaud said. “I’ve outlined a detailed plan for how we can close the wage gap in Maine, and if elected governor, I am committed to bringing people together to put that plan into action.”
If elected, Michaud said that he would work to:
– Increase the minimum wage: According to the National Women’s Law Center, raising the minimum wage will help to close the pay gap because two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. Gov. Paul LePage vetoed a bill passed by the Legislature in 2013 that would have raised the minimum wage to $9 an hour over three years.
– Increase access to quality, affordable childcare, early childhood and pre-K education, including support for effective programs such as Head Start. In addition to being good for children and future workforce development, access to affordable, quality early childhood education is critical as women with children enter or re-enter the workforce. LePage vetoed a bill last month that would support early childhood education by developing a long-term plan for early childhood education in Maine.
– Support paid sick days and better family leave policies. A study from Rutgers found that women who use paid leave are far more likely to be working nine to 12 months after a child’s birth than those who do not take any leave. The study also found that these women report increases in wages from pre- to post-birth.
– Strengthening anti-poverty and education programs, which stabilize families in crisis and provide them with the education and skills to re-enter the workforce and earn a living wage. As part of his business and investment plan, Maine Made, Michaud has proposed making the Maine Earned Income Tax Credit refundable; revitalizing and improving the Governor’s Training Initiative, a public-private partnership that helps workers gain new skills and credentials; and making higher education at the state’s colleges and universities more affordable.
– Ensure state government practices what it preaches by guaranteeing fair pay for women who work in the public sector or for government contractors.
In addition, Michaud said that building a strong, diverse economy is also critical to closing the wage gap.
Michaud has been a strong supporter of equal pay throughout his career. In addition to the work he did in the Legislature, Michaud was also a strong supporter of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in Congress. The law, which was signed by President Obama in 2009, protects workers from unlawful pay discrimination. In addition, Michaud is a co-sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to further protect against sex-based pay discrimination, and the Healthy Families Act.