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Rep. Jay McNamar: Women’s Economic Security Act provides the fairness we expect

When it comes to equitable pay and fairness in the workplace, I feel most everyone in our part of the state is willing to hold up their end of the bargain.  Our legislative district spans a large area in West Central Minnesota with lots of open farming country and many tight-knit communities where everyone knows their neighbors.

Treating employees fairly - not based on their gender - is the right thing to do and good business; and it’s the way people expect to be treated when they’re your neighbors.  Still, the recent Census data indicates that my House district has a slightly wider gender gap at 24 percent less pay for women than the statewide average of 21 percent.

The Women’s Economic Security Act (HF 2536) isn’t just about gender pay equity, but also makes sure that there are reasonable workplace policies related to maternity leave, family care-giving, and a new opportunity for workers to self-fund their retirement plans.  The idea is to make the workplace better not only for women, but employers and all workers – including those nearing retirement. One of the leading MnWESA coalition members is AARP.  As a semi-retired person myself (legislators are considered part-time despite our long hours at this time of year), I’m well aware we need to make the most of our later working years.

I was troubled to hear the legislative testimony of a young woman from the other side of the state who had just returned to work five weeks after having a baby.  She needed time to express milk for her baby – and was still able to handle her receptionist duties (while sitting in an available private space) answering phones and scheduling appointments.  Her boss just didn’t like the thought of that, and fired the family breadwinner that same week.  That doesn’t sound very neighborly, does it?

For most of my career, I was a school teacher, then the mayor of Elbow Lake, and now a legislator.  All those jobs have been covered by a gender pay equity law for decades.  In fact, Minnesota state and local governments and schools were recognized as a national model for achieving pay equity long before it became the norm.

On Wednesday, April 9, the Minnesota House voted in a bipartisan manner (106-24) to make the same progress on pay equity and fair workplace treatment throughout the state – in the business community, as well as in government.  I was proud to be a co-author of the bill, and to cast my yes vote for economic equality for the women in my family, and for all the hard working women in each of our communities.  

Rep. Jay McNamar (DFL-Elbow Lake) has represented District 12A in the Minnesota House of Representatives since 2012.