Louisiana’s equal pay advocates are optimistic about making progress this year

For a state consistently ranked as having the largest pay gap between working men and women in the country, 2017 is showing new promise for previously failed efforts to improve wage equity.

As Business Report details in a feature in the current issue, this year could be a turning point for Baton Rouge, and possibly the state, whose Legislature has rejected modern pay equity bills ever since they were first introduced at the Capitol during the 2005 session.

Once again at the bottom of the annual state rankings from Democratic staffers on Congress’s Joint Economic Committee, Louisiana women earn about 65 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make, compared to a national average of 80 cents. But local leaders are taking new steps to close the gap. In January, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu issued an executive order addressing equal pay for female city employees. Now, Mayor Sharon Weston Broome says she hopes to take similar action to advance gender pay equity in Baton Rouge.

“I stand in support of Mayor Landrieu’s executive order,” Broome tells Business Report in a statement. “I, too, have made a long standing commitment to equal pay and will issue an executive order for (Baton Rouge) in the coming months.”

Comprehensive pay equity bills typically run up against strong opposition from the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, among others, and draw party line votes from pro-business conservatives who block the legislation from reaching the House floor.

This year, pay equity advocates—with support from Gov. John Bel Edwards—are considering a different approach. Camille Moran, an equal pay supporter for more than 25 years and the American Association of University Women’s Louisiana public policy co-chair, says advocates are looking at trying to pass a smaller, more targeted bill that could be more palatable for some lawmakers, rather than pursuing the all or nothing approach of previous bills.

With a new approach and support from leaders like Edwards and Broome, pay equity advocates like Moran remain hopeful.

“We are going to have to get more local,” Moran says, “and take it on a case-by-case basis through each municipality or parish.”

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