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Pioneer Editorial: Republicans would strip pay equity

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opinion Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Republicans, who lead both the Minnesota House and Senate, may have been overzealous in their attempt to trim government. Under the mantle of removing mandates from local governments, a Republican effort is underfoot to repeal the 1984 law that brings gender balance to public employment.

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In other words, the bill would return to a situation where a man could be paid more than a woman for the comparable amount of work in a public job.

Minnesota Democrats raised Caine with the proposal on Tuesday, issuing a strongly worded message that the bill, House File 7, "distracts us from the real challenges facing Minnesotans while making it harder for working women to earn a wage they deserve. It makes no sense," said Rep. Linda Slocum, DFL-Bloomington.

The Republican bill which calls for abolishing or eliminating many state mandates on local governments is basically a good bill. There are a lot of mandates to which state government does not provide funding, and should be abolished or eliminated. But repealing the 1984 Local Government Pay Equity Act goes too far and should not be part of H.F. 7.

The basic premise of the act is to eliminate gender-based wage disparities in public employment in Minnesota local governments. Since its implication, it has brought transparency to public wages and helped narrow wage gaps. Still, research shows that equity problems remain. It shows in Minnesota that while women earn 76 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts. The disparity is even greater among black and Hispanic women and male counterparts.

"Every day, Minnesota women in every sector of our workforce contribute a hard day's work to make our state great," said Rep. Kate Knuth, - New Brighton. "Unfortunately, this work is not met with the equal pay it deserves. Until we reach this goal, repealing good government laws that combat inequality is a bad idea."

Sadly, with the large amount of public employment in the Bemidji area, the House bill to repeal is sponsored by Rep. Dave Hancock, R-Bemidji, and the Senate companion's chief author is Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji.

Both the city of Bemidji and Beltrami County, in the state's 2011 report, made compliance with the act for 2010. But that doesn't guarantee future compliance.

"While a jurisdiction may have achieved equitable compensation and be in compliance for one reporting cycle, this does not guarantee that all future reports will be in compliance," states the Minnesota Management and Budget report. "Therefore, it is important for local governments to continually review their pay structure and submit reports every three years to the state for review and analysis. This ongoing requirement to report prevents regression into inequitable compensation practices and reduces sex-based wage disparities in public employment throughout Minnesota."

The act should stand, and H.F. 7 amended to keep pay equity provisions.

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