HELENA – Citing his mother’s experience, Gov. Steve Bullock put in a strong pitch to legislators Wednesday for his administration’s bills aimed at helping women close the wage gap with men in Montana.
Bullock recalled growing up in a single-parent household in the late 1970s when his mother had to reenter the workforce.
“God knows, we had challenges, and Mom certainly faced obstacles trying to get a job to make ends meet,” he said. “At the time, a woman in Montana was earning, on average, 56 cents for every dollar men were making.”
He said his mother and many others in 1978 would have been much better off making what men did for the same job.
“But equal pay for equal work doesn’t just benefit women, it benefits working families,” Bullock said. “Almost 70 percent of Montana families who have kids at home have both parents in the workforce. It’s simple. When working women succeed, working families succeed.”
Bullock appointed an Equal Pay for Equal Work Task Force, headed by Labor Commissioner Pam Bucy and Administration Director Sheila Hogan, that has proposed some legislation seeking to close the wage gap.
Today in Montana, women working full time make 74 cents for every $1 made by men for performing the same job. If part-time workers are included, women make 68 cents for every $1 that men make for the same job, according to Bullock’s office.
Bullock cited these three bills recommended by the task force to close the wage gap:
• Senate Bill 158, by Sen. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, to forbid employers from firing or disciplining employees who disclose or discuss the amount of their wages, salary or benefits they receive.
“Study after study has demonstrated that simply allowing the opportunity to learn what co-workers earn leads to meaningful changes in women’s wages,” Bullock said.
• HB306, by Rep. Jenny Eck, D-Helena, to remove current limits in unemployment benefits for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
“Under Montana law, when someone loses their job because they had to flee from domestic violence to protect themselves and their family, they’re only eligible for 10 weeks of unemployment insurance – but any other accepted reason qualifies for up to 28 weeks,” Bullock said. “I’m counting on you to fix this, because worrying about paying the bills shouldn’t keep families from being safe.”
• SB198, by Sen. Mary Caferro, D-Helena, to revise state pension laws, which now end all government service longevity for employees if they have a break of service of more than five days.
“Finally, protect longevity so we don’t financially punish state employees who leave their jobs to raise children or care for family members,” the governor said. “When these employees return to state employment, they shouldn’t have to start back at zero. All of their years of service should count.”