With so much happening in the news, you may have missed that a few members of Congress, including our very own Rep. Andy Harris, are quietly working to undo all our recent gains to guarantee equal pay for equal work.
Equal pay for Americans should be non-negotiable — and shouldn’t be a debate at all here in Maryland. Yet even as we just observed Black Women’s Equal Pay Day and years of efforts to close the gap, black women in Maryland make just 69 cents on the dollar compared to men. Latinas make just 47 cents on the dollar according to the National Women’s Law Center.
With a problem like that in a state with the 5th largest African American population in the nation, you’d think Maryland politicians would be clamoring to close the gap.
Instead, Rep. Andy Harris, a Republican from Maryland’s 1st Congressional District, is working to reverse pay equality legislation with a new amendment, “EEO-1,” that just passed through the U.S. House Appropriations Committee.
His amendment would end all meaningful reporting on unequal pay by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by ending pay and diversity reporting requirements for big employers and handicapping the commission's ability to punish discriminatory employers.
Losing that data would make it impossible to track the pay gap, allowing politicians like Dr. Harris to simply pretend it doesn’t exist.
What’s surprising is just how out of touch Dr. Harris is on this issue.
Just last year, Gov. Larry Hogan signed the Maryland Equal Pay for Equal Work bill into law, bipartisan legislation that lessened the pay gap and strengthened Maryland’s equal pay laws. The issue of equal pay is neither a Republican nor a Democratic issue in Maryland — it is about families putting food on the table.
And for black families across Maryland in particular, this issue is about the ability to thrive in the face of emergencies. The fact is that more than half of Americans don’t have the money to survive a $500 emergency without going into debt, as found in a study by Bankrate and reported in CBS News. And that is even more true for black families across Maryland and America, who face a staggering wealth gap: White families have on average seven times the wealth of black families, a result of generations of discrimination in employment, and even more so, housing.
The fact is, Marylanders of color simply cannot afford to make less — far too many black families across Maryland and our country are just one emergency away from financial ruin. Equal paychecks are the first step to rebuilding wealth, and essential to strengthening Maryland’s families in the face of the many emergencies that life inevitably brings.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s equal pay data collection helps to ensure that real progress is made toward closing race and gender pay gaps that have shortchanged too many Americans for far too long.
Andy Harris’ efforts are a threat to Maryland families, plain and simple. We need equal pay now, and we simply cannot afford one out of touch congressman throwing us under the bus.
Charly Carter is executive director of Maryland Working Families. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.