As the 2022 Mississippi Legislative Session nears, the conversation of equal pay protection is beginning to heat up yet again.
Last Wednesday, the city of Jackson joined an open letter urging Mississippi lawmakers to pass an equal pay protection law for women.
“Without equal pay protection, the women of our state face persistent poverty and live under perpetual financial trauma,” the letter, which can be found on the capital city’s Facebook page, reads. “Without support, women are forced to balance the duress they face in unprotected jobs with the need to provide the basic needs of a family, including childcare, housing, healthcare, and transportation.”
The letter also asserts that two-thirds of workers being paid minimum wage are female, and if an equal pay law is put into place, it would provide a pathway for Mississippi women to get out of poverty, as well as add $4.15 billion to the state’s economy.
According to a 2017 report by the Mississippi University Research Center, women earned 27 percent less than men for full time work in Mississippi, 8 percent more than the wage gap nationwide. More so, Black and Latina women make 54 cents for every dollar a white man makes.
It’s been an ongoing battle for equal pay advocates as several pay equity bills in recent years have made it to committee but been shut down by lawmakers.
In March of 2017, slivers—not slices—of pecan and sweet potato pie were delivered to legislators’ desks after an equal pay bill died in committee. A sticker on the pie containers read, “Want more pie? So do Mississippi women. 75% pay inequity. Mississippi women working full time only make 75 percent of what men earn.”
In 2018, the House passed a bill, 106-10, that would both prevent local governments from establishing a minimum wage, as well as implement an equal pay law for women. Then-Lt. Governor Tate Reeves and the Senate allowed the legislation to die in committee.
In 2019, Mississippi became the only state without an equal pay law after the Alabama Legislature passed one. Three equal pay bills died in committee that year.
In 2020, former Senator Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, drafted a bill that would help equalize the playing field for women and it passed, 38-11. However, longtime chamber leader Phillip Gunn allowed the bill to be double referred to two House committees. It never made it to the floor for a vote.
Most recently, in the 2021 session, you can probably guess what happened: another equal pay bill died in committee.
For the upcoming session, State Senate Labor Committee Chairman John Horhn, D-Jackson, has guaranteed another push, but whether his peers in both chambers will back an equal pay protection law for women or not remains the question at hand.