MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Women are paid less than men for the same jobs in Alabama but there is no state law to protect against pay inequity. Advocates and lawmakers spoke in support of a bill to address the gender pay gap during a public hearing in a House committee Wednesday.
The legislation introduced by Rep. Adline Clarke, a Democrat, prohibits gender wage discrimination except where there is a difference in education, experience or productivity. It would also require employers to keep payroll records and let employees discuss salaries.
Alabama and Mississippi are the only two states that don’t have equal pay laws. White women in Alabama make 74 cents to a white man’s dollar; African-American women make 57 cents to a white man’s dollar and Hispanic women, only 49 cents, The National Women’s Law Center calculated.
During Wednesday’s hearing, six supporters of the bill said the wage gap hurts the families of breadwinning women, especially single mothers, and increases poverty in the state.
Jo Ann Cummings, former state president of the American Association for University Women, said if a woman has the same or better education as a man, there’s no reason she should be paid less.
“What is it about being a woman that is worth less than a man?” Cummings said.
Three lawmakers spoke in support of the bill.
Rep. Barbara Drummond, a Democrat, said that she was always told education would help her get ahead in life. But she said she found that wasn’t the case when she entered the workforce.
“I worked harder than men but I got paid less,” Drummond said. “We have an opportunity to show the rest of the country that Alabama is ahead and we value women. It’s long overdue in the state of Alabama.”
The only opponent was Rosemary Elebash, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. She said that she hasn’t received a complaint about unequal pay in 15 years.
“I don’t know where the issue is,” Elebash said.
Elebash said regulations in the bill would burden small business owners with record-keeping and violate confidentiality.
The committee didn’t vote on the bill and it’s unlikely it will pass this session. The same bill failed in 2016, but Clarke has pledged to bring it up again until it passes.