Congressional candidates weigh in on gender pay gap
Heading into the November election, candidates for Congressional Districts, comprised, in part, by constituents of Will County communities, shared differing views on the gender pay gap and its impact to voters.
A recent analysis of 2017 U.S. Census Bureau data released by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) gives a breakdown of the State of Illinois’ equal pay protections and outlines how lawmakers for Congressional Districts fare when it comes to pay equity and the effort to close the gap.
The work of the AAUW shows that in Illinois, the pay gap between men and women is $0.78 cents for every dollar, which is below the national average of $0.80 for every dollar.
“The pay laws in Illinois are actually quite strong, so that’s conflicting, but there’s always room for improvement,” said Deborah Vagins, senior vice president of public policy and research for AAUW.
The AAUW’s analysis looks at each state’s equal pay laws, as well, as current federal laws and other ways to achieve equal pay.
Every September, the U.S. Census Bureau releases its data.
“We look at that each year to see the progress that is being made and what work needs to be done,” Vagins said, noting the importance of the ongoing work to close the gender pay gap.
Congresswoman Robin Kelly touted her voting record, saying that she has backed federal legislation to help address pay equity.
Kelly is vying for re-election to the 2ndCongressional District of Illinois. Her opponent in the November election is Republican candidate David Merkle.
Kelly said she wants to continue to play a part in leveling the playing field for women.
“There is definitely more to be done because it’s unfair,” she said. “In your career, you have lost a million dollars because you didn’t make the same amount of money.”
The AAUW has findings that show the 2ndCongressional District of Illinois and its gender wage gap currently ranks as the sixth smallest in the state.
Vagins said it is clear that the gender pay gap affects people in different ways.
“What we know is that for women of color, the wage gap is much worse, so factors, like discrimination—which play into the wage gap, and is one of the factors that causes it—is even worse for women of color,” she said.
Merkle downplayed the idea of the gender pay gap and its impact to constituents.
“They have millionaires in every town in this country,” he said. “Oprah [Winfrey’s] got money; Dianne Feinstein’s got money; Whoopi [Goldberg’s] got money; Barbara Streisand’s got money. If you work, you can have all the money you want.”
The work of the AAUW shows that African American women in Illinois typically generate $0.63 for every dollar, compared to white, non-Hispanic men. That same trend holds true for Latinas in Illinois who commonly earn $0.49 for every dollar, compared to white, non-Hispanic men.
Kelly said it’s unfortunate to know that when women suffer, the whole family may suffer.
Recently, Kelly hosted a program in which roughly 250 women were invited to sit in on a discussion of generational wealth.
“Sometimes people don’t even realize that they don’t make the same amount of money, as the person right next to them doing the same amount of work, with the same experience and education level,” Kelly said. “We were trying to educate women to make them aware of all things money.”
Merkle discredited the value of the program that Kelly had hosted, saying that it should have casted a wider net.
“You do anything else but that, you’re not helping anybody,” he said.
Sara Dady, a candidate for the Congressional 16thDistrict of Illinois, said she feels she would better represent the interests of people who live in the Congressional 16thDistrict.
“[Adam Kinzinger has] affected absolutely no change to improve the lives of women, children, or the middle class in the 16thCongressional District,” she said. “He consistently votes against the interests of the middle class.”
Dady is vying for the seat of Congressman Adam Kinzinger in the November general election. The AAUW has findings that show the 16thCongressional District of Illinois and its gender wage gap currently ranks as the 18thsmallest in the state.
Dady said the actions of Congress are putting the people in a situation where costs have risen and wages haven’t.
“We’re in a time of low unemployment,” she said. “We would expect to see wages rise, and yet, they’re not. They’re still lagging behind inflation.”
Dady noted the problem isn’t that people aren’t working in the Congressional 16thDistrict of Illinois, they’re working a lot and said she has a possible solution to this problem.
“A single-payer [healthcare] system would be ideal, if we want to talk about increasing wages and making the U.S. workforce more competitive,” she said.
A bill equipped with added equal pay protections is currently sitting with Gov. Bruce Rauner. He has until Oct. 7 to sign it. The bill, if signed into law, would deter employers from inquiring of salary history.
“We think that the laws in Illinois could be even stronger, and that could close the wage gap,” Vagins said.
The campaign for Congressman Adam Kinzinger did not respond to requests for interview.