Showing great political acumen less than two months before a recall election where women are eligible to vote, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker just repealed the state’s equal-pay law.
A Wisconsin law that made it easier for victims of wage discrimination to have their day in court was repealed on Thursday, after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) quietly signed the bill.
The 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act was meant to deter employers from discriminating against certain groups by giving workers more avenues via which to press charges. Among other provisions, it allows individuals to plead their cases in the less costly, more accessible state circuit court system, rather than just in federal court.
Even with this law, Wisconsin’s gender pay equity data lags the national average. In Wisconsin, women make 75 cents on the dollar, compared to 77 cents nationally. With the repeal of this law, this stands to get even worse. That can be seen simply by the fact that business organizations lobbied heavily for repeal.
Walker faces a recall election June 5, against a Democratic challenger to be determined by a primary on May 8. He already had a lot of hurdles to overcome in the recall. The state had one of the worst jobs records in the country in 2011, and it lags well behind the pace of 250,000 new jobs Walker promised for his first term (in fact, that number only recently turned net positive). Walker faces an ongoing investigation into him and his staffers during his reign as Milwaukee County executive, as well as his gubernatorial campaign. And there is the animating principle of the recalls, the anti-union law, which a federal district court judge just ruled partially unconstitutional. This law stripped most collective bargaining rights for most public employees, among other things.
On top of all of this, Walker’s anti-woman record will now certainly be a part of the recall election. Both Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Dane County executive Kathleen Falk raised the repeal of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act today.
Falk said Walker has “turned back the clock for women across Wisconsin.”
“As a woman and as a mother who worked full-time while raising my son, I know first-hand how important pay equity and health care are to women across Wisconsin,” she said in a statement to The Huffington Post.
A spokesman for Barrett’s campaign said that Walker’s “ideological civil war includes a war on women, and repeal today of this protection against pay discrimination is a major step backwards for Wisconsin values and basic fairness.”
“Tom Barrett knows equal pay for equal work is essential, and failing to stand up for Wisconsin women in the workplace is yet another reason he [Walker] must be defeated this summer,” he said.
More broadly, this is part of an embarrassing Republican campaign against women’s rights, which has made many in the GOP uncomfortable. The combination of anti-choice laws in the states, pushback on the Administration’s new contraception coverage rules, and attacks (some literal) on Planned Parenthood have allowed for a narrative of a “war on women,” which Democrats have actually been skillful in employing. Now, Walker’s repeal of the Equal Pay Enforcement Act adds to this mix.
UPDATE: Attempting a bank shot, the Obama campaign wants Mitt Romney to answer for Walker’s repeal, because he said nice things about Walker last week in Wisconsin.