Politics

A GOP Official Argued Why Women Shouldn't Get Equal Pay — and It Backfired Big Time

February 17th 2017

By:
Almie Rose

A local GOP official in Utah is getting a lot of heat for a letter he wrote opposing the idea of equal pay for women, and his ensuing apology generated even more of a backlash.

James C. Green, the vice chairman of the Wasatch County GOP, wrote a letter to the editor of The Wasatch Wave this week arguing that Utah's proposed equal pay bill, Senate Bill 210, would negatively affect families.

"Traditionally men have earned more than women in the workplace, because they are considered the primary breadwinners for families," Green wrote. "They need to make enough to support their families and allow the mother to remain in the home to raise and nurture the children."

Green added that he believed working mothers were bad for families and society:

"If businesses are forced to pay women the same as male earnings, that means they will have to reduce the pay for the men they employ, ... simple economics. If that happens, then men will have an even more difficult time earning enough to support their families, which will mean more mothers will be forced to leave the home (where they may prefer to be) to join the workforce to make up the difference.

"And as even more women thus enter the workforce, that creates more competition for jobs (even men's jobs) and puts further downward pressure on the pay for all jobs, ... meaning more and more mothers will be forced into the workforce. And that is bad for families and thus for all of society.

"It's a vicious cycle that only gets worse the more equality of pay is forced upon us. It's a situation of well-meaning intentions, but negative unintended consequences."

Green issued a plea to "encourage our legislators to drop the whole notion."

NBC News contributor Mary Emily O'Hara posted the letter in a tweet on Thursday, which was retweeted more than 8,500 times as of Friday.

Many Twitter users blasted Green's argument.

Green's sexist argument against equal pay goes further than the actual bill in question, which is modest in its goals. According to the bill's language:

"This bill modifies provisions related to employee pay in the state. ... This bill: requires certain employers in the state to adopt and disclose to each employee uniform criteria that the employer uses to determine whether to change an employee's compensation or benefits based on the employee's performance; instructs the Department of Workforce Services to conduct a study on whether there is a difference in pay between men and women in the state. ... "

"His suggestion that we just don't pay women equally is unlawful," Stephanie Pitcher, director of the Utah Women’s Coalition, told Fox 13 Salt Lake City. "It’s against the law by both the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Utah anti-discrimination provisions here in Utah law."

Green subsequently apologized. That was also not well-received.

Green sent an email to Fox 13 on Thursday, acknowledging that his initial letter got him into "hot water" and clarifying that it was intended "to express that I don’t feel the government should be dictating to private establishments what they must do in regard to employment, hiring, or wages. There was no offense intended toward women, whatsoever. And yet some took it that way. To those who were offended, I profusely apologize. I sincerely did not mean to do that."

Green added that he had worked his "fingers to the bone (with numerous extra side jobs) so my wife could stay in the home and raise our two sons, who are now both physician/surgeons (plus one also has a law degree). I realize not everyone is so fortunate."

Twitter users accused Green of having outdated notions about working women.

They attacked his core argument that working mothers are bad for society.

New moms participating in a group discussion

In fact, research has shown that working moms are good role models for their children. Moreover, the children of working mothers end up earning more in their own careers.

The New York Times reported this effect in 2015, based on a Pew Research Center study:

'"In a new study of 50,000 adults in 25 countries, daughters of working mothers completed more years of education, were more likely to be employed and in supervisory roles and earned higher incomes. ... Some of these effects were strong in the United States. Here, daughters of working mothers earned 23 percent more than daughters of stay-at-home mothers, after controlling for demographic factors, and sons spent seven and a half more hours a week on child care and 25 more minutes on housework."