Kamala Harris Equal Pay Proposal Nanny State Boo Hoo Oh No WAAAH
Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons license 2.0

We are happy to see that ALL THE COOL KIDS running for the Democratic nomination are now releasing policy proposals, even if they'll never catch up with Elizabeth Warren, who's intent on being the Lisa Simpson of electoral extra credit. That IS TOO an apt political analysis! The latest one comes from Kamala Harris, who plans to end the wage gap for women by demanding that all employers over a certain size prove they're paying women the same as men for similar work, or face some damn consequences for once.

Speaking at a campaign event in California, Harris said it's a simple matter of justice:

When you lift up the economic status of men, you lift up the economic status of families and communities and all of society. But yet in America today, women for the same work – for the equal work -- on average make 80 cents on the dollar [...] Black women make 61 cents on the dollar. Latinas make 53 cents on the dollar and this has got to end.

Her plan is pretty simple: Instead of waiting for corporate culture to change, how about we demand the change instead? Martin Luther King, after all, thought it would be nice if white people weren't racist, but he damn sure wasn't going to wait for equality until they all became better people. So Harris would require all companies to get an "Equal Pay Certification" from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Companies would have to document that men and women are getting equal pay for equal work, or they'd face fines: One percent of their profits for each percent of the company's wage gap. Businesses with over 500 employees, which ought to know better anyway, would have two years to come into compliance before facing a fine. Relatively smaller businesses, with over 100 employees, would have three years. And any company with a federal government contract over $500,000 would have to be certified within two years if it wants to keep that contract.

It's hardly a completely novel approach; the Harris campaign notes Iceland already has a similar law in place, and that Minnesota requires pay equity for all companies with state government contracts.

We like! A Harris aide explained to CBS News that the goal was to shift the burden of winning wage equality away from the people who are already suffering from it. Under current equal pay law, women getting unequal pay have to sue for damages. Instead, let's demand equal pay and then go after employers who fail to shape up. That's how you get change, not through itty-bitty pleas to maybe be nicer to all people and then making women have to demand what should be a given.

The fines collected from companies that aren't in compliance with the law would provide funding for the FAMILY Act proposed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro. If passed into law, that bill would provide 12 weeks of paid parental or medical leave; Harris's team estimates that "$180 billion would be raised from the fines, which they think will taper off over time, as companies begin to come into compliance." No, that's not a call for continued unequal pay to fund family leave; we bet other funding could be figured out, like a tax on every goddamn stupid thing said about women on Fox News.

As with her proposal to reform gun laws, Harris also has in mind a fallback if Congress won't pass the reform: She would put the changes in place for government contractors via an executive order, as a start. Roughly 28 million private sector jobs would then be subject to getting EEOC wage equality certification, and presumably there'd be a fair amount of spill-over into the larger economy to goose a wider adoption of the requirement.

In addition, The Wall Street Journal details some other good-for-workers rules in Harris's proposal:

The senator's plan would also prevent companies from asking about prior salary history as part of their hiring practices and bar them from using forced arbitration agreements in employment contracts for pay-discrimination matters.

Corporations would also be required to report the percentage of women in leadership positions and the share of women who are among the top earners of a company.

Republicans, it's worth noting, are already whining about "burdensome" regulations, and just plain lying through their teeth, insisting that women's unemployment rates are already at an all-time low since the 1950s, which is a hell of a very different thing from whether women are getting equal pay for equal work, now isn't it?

We're happy to see more concrete policy proposals from Democratic candidates, but let's keep in mind that we need good proposals that would actually change things -- sorry, Seth Moulton, you don't get a hell of a lot of credit for rolling out a "National Service" plan that's pretty much AmeriCorps, albeit with a bigger budget. It's nice, but calling on young Americans to pick up trash is no Green New Deal, you. We're picky about that sort of thing, Other Tim Ryan.

[CBS News / WSJ / Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons license 2.0]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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