Is Wisconsin’s War Just On Women?

Wisconsin’s Democrats have been claiming that Governor Scott Walker recently signed a law repealing Wisconsin’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act as part of Republican’s “war on women.”  I covered this issue in some prior posts (here and here) as the law was passed out of Wisconsin’s Assembly.  In my first post, I erroneously argued that the Assembly’s bill would repeal Wisconsin’s law providing for equal pay to women for the same work as men.  My post was based on an erroneous statement made by a Wisconsin’s Democratic Assemblywomen’s facebook post.  My friend Bart Torvik set me straight on that point, pointing out that the bill did not, in fact, repeal Wisconsin’s law requiring equal pay for equal work.  Instead, it repealed people’s right to seek certain damages for any type of discrimination in state court.
Nonetheless, Wisconsin Democrats have been trying to gain political traction by claiming that the repeal of this law will have a disproportionally negative effect on women.  Given that the law afforded all employees, regardless of gender, an avenue for redress in state courts, I do not think it is fair to claim that its repeal will have a disproportionate affect on women or that it constitutes a repeal of Wisconsin’s law ensuring equal pay for equal work.

Those pushing for the repeal, however, have arguably provided a basis for some to claim that the repeal was motivated in part by gender. Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman, who championed the repeal, argues that any gap in pay between men and women stems from women’s decision to focus on child rearing instead of their career.  When shown statistics that even when taking life choices such as child rearing into account women still earn less than men, Grothman cited unsubstantiated “liberal” bias in the study and stated that he believed men cared more about money than women: “You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious.”

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