Opinion by

Karen Carter Peterson
State senator

NOLA.com – The Times-Picayune

Louisiana, your mother raised you better than this. Our great state has spent too long at the bottom of too many lists measuring equal opportunities for women and the quality of life for working mothers. It is nothing short of scandalous that our state ranks at the very bottom of the nation when it comes to equal pay.

In Louisiana — where more than half of our labor force is made up of women, where nearly 40 percent of our families rely on women to be the breadwinner — we tell our mothers and our daughters that their efforts are worth 66 cents on the dollar for every buck a man earns.

It’s embarrassing. It’s immoral. And it has to stop.

This Tuesday (April 12), women across the country will mark Equal Pay Day for 2016 — the day symbolizing how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year. In the Louisiana Legislature, the state Senate will take up a bill filed by my colleague Sen. J.P. Morrell that would extend pay equality to all workers in Louisiana. You can mark the day by making your voice heard. Call your lawmakers, demand that your representatives stand up for our mothers and our daughters, and fight for equal pay for equal work.

There is no excuse not to pay women equally for the same work done by men, and absolutely no legitimate gray area where people of good conscience can agree to disagree. Paying women less than men for doing the same work, passing the buck and pretending invisible “market forces” will correct the gap has never worked. Making excuses about lawsuits that haven’t happened yet insults every woman in this state.

Last year, during the regular session, nine Republicans on the House labor committee voted on party lines to kill two bills that sought to address the pay gap. In fact, Republicans in the state Legislature have killed or opposed bills attempting to address unequal pay for our mothers and our daughters in every session for the past seven years.

Louisiana, we have to be better than this. We cannot in good conscience allow a stubborn cadre of partisan extremists to put the whims of their corporate special interests ahead of doing right by our mothers and our daughters.

As things stand now, our state ranks 51st out of all 50 states (plus the District of Columbia) in equal pay for women. Not only do we have a moral imperative to make things right, we have a significant economic incentive. Treating the women of Louisiana as equals on payday is not only the right thing to do, it’s an engine for economic expansion and for business growth. Companies from across the country have to believe they can attract the best talent if they set up shop in Louisiana, and they can only do that if they are operating in an environment where the entire workforce is valued and treated equitably.

I am proud to stand with Gov. John Bel Edwards, with my fellow Democrats, and with responsible leaders from across the aisle in the fight to demand equal pay for equal work. The people of Louisiana, the voters who elected us, deserve the best of their public servants. And right now, that means supporting lawmakers who support women. That means standing up for our mothers, our sisters and our daughters and showing them what it truly means to value families.

The working people of Louisiana know that the women they love and respect don’t go to work and do two-thirds of the job their male coworkers do. How can we continue to allow them to take home a fraction of the pay for the same time, the same sweat, and the same efforts?

Your mother and mine worked just as hard as the men around them, if not harder, to raise responsible citizens and good people. Don’t we owe it to them, at a minimum, to put the force of law behind their right to equal pay? Can we look into the faces of our daughters and tell them that, under the laws of the state, employers can continue to exploit their efforts and insult their intelligence by paying them pennies on the dollar?

It’s past time we stepped up and did right, past time we proved ourselves worthy of the women who reared us. Speak out now, call on your legislator to stand with Gov. Edwards and with women all across Louisiana. Demand equal pay for equal work, because it’s the right thing. Demand equal pay for equal work, because your mother raised you right.Online Generator Little alchemist Gems

Demand equal pay for equal work, because your daughters deserve the same opportunities as your sons.

Sen. Karen Carter Peterson of New Orleans represents District 5 in the Louisiana Senate and is the elected chair of the Louisiana Democratic Party.

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