In an televised interview on March 9th, GOP candidate for Texas Governor Greg Abbott dodged a question about the Texas Equal Pay Act. When asked whether he would take the same stance as Governor Rick Perry, who vetoed the law when it came to his desk, Greg Abbott did not answer the question. Instead, Abbott spoke about how his having a daughter and a wife makes him invested in equality when it comes to pay discrimination, since he clearly cannot support equal pay simply on the basis of the merits of women as half of the human race (and half of the voting population in the state).
Interestingly, Abbott – who claims that the existing laws in Texas are sufficient enough to achieve pay parity – was the Attorney General whose office defended Prairie View A&M University against complaints specifically regarding pay discrimination. This exact case has been referenced as the example of the limitations of federal law to protect workers in states where no similar laws exist. Has Abbott already forgotten that he proved himself wrong, or is he just hoping the voters won't make that connection?
More on Greg Abbott's stance on equal pay – and full video of his non-response – below the jump.In the segment, which aired on WFAA-TV, Abbott does everything he can to avoid saying he would veto similar legislation if it came across his desk as a Governor, but makes it incredibly clear that he believes no such legislation is necessary for equality in Texas.
Candidates and organizations across the state have spoken out against Greg Abbott's silence on this important matter, which received bipartisan support in passing both the Texas House and the Texas Senate in 2013. Senator Wendy Davis, who authored the bill on the Senate side, said:
Greg Abbott needs to stop dodging and give a straight answer about his opposition to the Texas Equal Pay Act. Hardworking Texans deserve to know if he believes in this simple principle: a full day's work is worth a full day's pay no matter what your gender. With more families than ever before relying on two incomes, they can't afford to have one of their paychecks unfairly reduced just because one of them is a woman.
Women in Texas are paid 82 cents to every dollar made by a man in the state, according to the census. For women of color this disparity is even worse. For African American women this number is 59 cents, and Latinas make only 45 cents per dollar compared to men. This is the kind of economic injustice that should make all Texans angry who believe that hard work should be rewarded by fair pay.
Jenn Brown, Executive Director of Battleground Texas, pointed out the stark difference on this issue between Davis and Abbott. “Wendy Davis helped push the Texas Equal Pay Act through the legislature with bipartisan support to protect Texas families,” Brown explained, “Greg Abbott won't even admit why he's opposed to it. The choice is clear. If you want a Governor who will fight for Texas families,” Brown continued, “Wendy Davis is there for you.”
The Texas Democratic Party also criticized Greg Abbott's lack of position on such legislation. According to TDP Regional Press Secretary Lisa Paul,
Greg Abbott argues that current laws solve the problem of pay inequity, but the facts are clear. Women across Texas only make 82 cents for every dollar men earn. Republicans have let inequity persist under their watch, at the expense of Texas women and families. Greg Abbott can say that discrimination isn't right, but actions speak louder than words. A majority of legislators from across the aisle supported the Texas Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act because Texas women demand action now. Texas Democrats stand for equality and fairness, and Texans know that equal pay for equal work is just plain fair.
For Wendy Davis, not only is equal pay a question of what is fair, it is at its core a question of justice for women facing a reality where they are less likely to receive the same compensation as their male counterparts for exactly the same work. In a teleconference with Senator Sylvia Garcia of Houston and Alex Jimenez, a former senior executive for TXU, Davis addressed this issue in light of Abbott's clear bias from past cases:
A full day's hard work is worth a full day's pay no matter your gender. As Attorney General, Greg Abbott actively fought against equal pay for equal work in the courtroom. Greg Abbott has shown that he would be a governor who just doesn't care that there are more families than ever before relying on two incomes – who can't afford to have one of their paychecks unfairly reduced because one of them is a woman. Texas needs a governor who is singularly focused on making sure our state moves into the future with a 21st century economy. That begins with the principle of equal pay for equal work.
Equal pay legislation like the bill Davis authored last legislative session isn't only common sense, it is good economic policy. Jimenez explained, “Greg Abbott's opposition to equal pay legislation is putting the financial security of Texas families at risk and holding Texas back.” Jimenez expanded, “Blocking equal pay for equal work is bad for Texas business. Less income for Texas families means small businesses have fewer customers.”
Pay discrimination impacts women and families across Texas with no regard to political party or ideology. While Abbott is looking out for his daughter and his wife, he would do well to remember all of the other women in the state whose livelihoods – and that of their families – depends on their right to equal pay. Texas deserves a governor who knows that all women, even those she isn't related to, deserve to have full protection under the law from pay discrimination. This is a matter of economics, equality, and justice. Senator Davis knows that Texas women can't wait.