This is a submitted open letter to members of the Mississippi Legislature.
Honorable Mississippi Legislators,
Our coalition is writing this open letter to ask that you give us the gift of passing an Equal Pay Law that protects the women of Mississippi, which improves the economy of our great state.
The Mississippi Women’s Economic Security Initiative Coalition is a collective of more than 50 organizations with thousands of members from across the entire state. The coalition is organized to promote policies to improve the economic wellbeing of women and family members they support. We know that many Mississippians are struggling to survive. Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed (ALICE) households struggle to function in every county in Mississippi—urban, suburban and rural—including people of all genders, ages, household types and ethnicities for whom women in Mississippi bear the heaviest responsibility of supporting their families.
Despite the fact that 49% of the state’s workforce are women, 83% of single female-led households live below the poverty level; women make up nearly two-thirds of workers paid minimum wage (only $7.25/hr); more than 70% work in tipped jobs and low-wage jobs that typically pay $11.50 an hour or less.
Mississippi’s working women are “economically insecure.” Without equal-pay protection, the women of our state face persistent poverty and live under perpetual financial trauma. Without support, women are forced to balance the duress they face in unprotected jobs with the need to provide for the basic needs of a family including childcare, housing, health care and transportation.
Mississippi’s women are economic drivers for their families and the broader Mississippi economy. Passing an Equal Pay Law would add $4.1 billion to Mississippi’s economy and simultaneously benefit and protect both the employee and the employer.
Frankly, equal pay protection is good for business.
Equal Pay: Our ‘Pathway Out of Poverty’
In order for women to have an opportunity and pathway out of poverty and help the whole of Mississippi, the Legislature must urgently address the significant pay disparities that remain critical for the economic security of women and their families. Mississippi urgently needs to enact an equal-pay law that ensures that all employees:
- Receive equal pay for equal work, without regard to their sex, race, national origin or other protected characteristics, unless an employer shows a bona-fide business justification for the pay difference
- Are protected from retaliation for discussing their pay with co-workers
- Aren’t forced to provide their salary history when seeking a job, because pay discrimination follows individuals from job to job when employers rely on job applicants’ salary history to set pay
- Are able to recover compensatory and punitive damages and be fully compensated for the harm they experience from pay discrimination
- Provides a safe harbor from damages for businesses that conduct a self-evaluation of their pay practices and are working toward closing gender and racial wage gaps.
Mississippi is the only state in the nation without an Equal Pay law. These laws work well, and it’s time for Mississippi to stop short-changing our women!
We urge each of you to show your support for and protection of women by becoming co-sponsors advocating for positively impactful equal-pay legislation. In doing so, you will demonstrate your commitment to the lives and wellbeing of women in our state.
Please let us know if you or your staff would like any additional information on this important legislation. The Mississippi Women’s Economic Security Initiative Coalition looks forward to hearing from you soon. You may reach us through our partner organization, the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable by emailing [email protected].
The partner organizations of the Mississippi Women’s Economic Security Initiative Coalition
This MFP Voices essay does not necessarily represent the views of the Mississippi Free Press, its staff or board members. To submit an essay for the MFP Voices section, send up to 1,200 words and factcheck information to [email protected]. We welcome a wide variety of viewpoints.