Sen. Mitch McConnell is claiming to be a staunch advocate of equal pay for women, but his voting record hasn’t always lined up with his campaign’s statement.
In an article about his potential Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes’s proposals to combat pay discrimination and help working women, his campaign spokeswoman told the Lexington Herald-Leader, “As the father of three daughters, fair pay for women is more than a talking point for Sen. McConnell.” She added, “It’s something he’s worked to achieve his entire career by setting an example for others and promoting thoughtful policies to ensure talent overcomes bias.”
Yet McConnell voted twice against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which eased the requirements for women to seek remedies for pay discrimination in court by providing them more time. It was signed into law by President Obama shortly after he assumed the office. McConnell has also voted twice against the Paycheck Fairness Act. That law would increase penalties against employers who discriminate in order to prevent it in the first place, tighten the rules about what counts as a justifiable pay difference, and ban the practice of salary secrecy, something that means about half of all workers are either prohibited or strongly discouraged from discussing pay with each other and that makes it very difficult for women to root out discrimination. Republicans have unanimously blocked the measure.
For her part, Grimes called for pay equity and a raise in the minimum wage. Women make up two-thirds of minimum wage workers, including the vast majority of tipped workers who are only guaranteed $2.13 an hour. Raising the wage would give them a boost and has also proven to help close the gender wage gap, as states with wider gaps tend to have lower minimum wages.
She also called for increasing tax breaks for businesses that create on-the-job childcare for their workers. She pointed to the fact that more than 140,000 women in Kentucky’s workforce have children under the age of six and need childcare support.
McConnell’s campaign pointed to extended tax credits in the fiscal cliff agreement he helped produce for employers who spend money on building childcare facilities in January. It also highlighted his work to extend the child tax credit and dependent care credit as well as supporting a recent bill that Republicans say would help families with workplace flexibility. Yet opponents of that bill warned it could allow employers to coerce workers into taking unpaid comp time instead of overtime wages and wouldn’t actually ensure flexible scheduling.
Across the country, women still make just 77 cents for every dollar a man makes on average, and a woman will make less than a man at the beginning of her career, no matter how much education she gets, no matter what job or industry she goes into, and even if she reaches the top ranks of her company.