Workplace Fairness: It’s time to pass the Women’s Economic Security Act
Local View: Duluth News Tribune - April 4, 2014
By Becky Lourey
When it comes to basic rights, treating people fairly not only is the right thing to do – it contributes to stable communities and a stronger economy. That’s always been my philosophy in public life, and it extends to the many years I’ve dedicated to owning a major technology business in east-central Minnesota.
I’m one of many volunteers who are helping pass the Minnesota Women’s Economic Security Act, which is under strong consideration in the Legislature this year. This broad legislative initiative addresses not only pay inequities between genders, but will help men and women balance family and work responsibilities.
Providing greater flexibility in the workplace for child and family care-giving triggers greater productivity and reduced employee turnover. At Nemadji Research Corp., we’ve provided on-site child care and nutrition for many years. Not only is it the right thing to do – keeping parents and their children in close contact during the work day, but workplace flexibility has proven invaluable in attracting and retaining top technology talent locally, regionally and from great distances.
Minnesota is an employment draw, in part, because we have a great, progressive reputation. Talented people want to work in communities and businesses that treat their employees fairly. For decades, Minnesota has had a pay equity law applying to state and local governments. By all measures, it has been a national model, and has succeeded in nearly eliminating pay discrimination in government.
Now it’s time to make progress in the private sector. The Women’s Economic Security Act expands on a highly successful concept while providing reasonable protections for the business community. We cannot stand still when women in Minnesota are paid 21 percent less than men. Research conducted over several years indicates that most of the Arrowhead region has an even wider pay disparity than the disturbing statewide gap.
For instance, Senate District 3 (which includes Hermantown, Proctor, Two Harbors, Cook and portions of Duluth) has a 71 percent larger pay gap than the statewide average. The same disparity applies to the Iron Range communities of Hibbing, Virginia and Eveleth (Senate District 6). These two districts have the largest pay disparity in the state with women’s earnings coming in at only 64 percent of men’s wages.
Many Minnesota business owners and entrepreneurs understand that fairness in the workplace is not only right, but it will result in a higher standard of living for all. We need to move forward on pay equity and allow for greater flexibility in the workplace when it comes to caring for newborn children, as well as taking care of our elderly family members. That’s one of the reasons why AARP is part of our broad coalition in support of the Women’s Economic Security Act.
To learn more about this legislative initiative, please visit MnWESA.org. To help achieve passage, please contact your local House and Senate members. For sure, I’ll be contacting mine!
Becky Lourey of Kerrick is co-founder and owner of Nemadji Research Corp. (NemadjiResearch.com). She represented east-central Minnesota in the state House and Senate for 16 years from 1991 to 2007 (BeckyLourey.org).