From the Bangor Daily News
By Stacey Guerin, Opinion guest column. • November 14, 2019 10:11 am
As a woman, a business owner, and a Republican, I know how blessed Mainers are to have benefited from the tremendous prosperity that we have all enjoyed over the last several years. Imagine my surprise, then, to find that liberal special interest groups are telling a story of doom and gloom for women in Maine brought on by Republicans.
In slick, professionally designed mailers, the Maine Women’s Lobby, a non-profit organization that is “ absolutely prohibited” by law from participating even indirectly in political campaigns, is targeting several of my Republican colleagues in the state Senate — a full year before the next election — by making ridiculously misleading statements designed to persuade Maine voters that Republicans are somehow against women and children.
These Republican senators, according to the mailers, voted “against equal pay for equal work” and that vote “would have prevented … reducing child poverty,” among other false and foolish statements.
The mailers cite a law passed in the last legislative session that says an employer has committed an act of discrimination under the Maine Human Rights Act if they simply inquire about an applicant’s salary history.
During a hearing on the bill, the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, among others, testified that the law could have the opposite effect by lowering initial salary offers, which is why only seven other states have adopted such laws. In contrast, state laws in Michigan and Wisconsin, for example, prohibit local bans on salary inquiries for these reasons.
With the real impact of the law still in question across the U.S., any legislator could vote for or against this bill in good conscience and without a desire to discriminate against women or to hold children in poverty.
What the mailers carefully avoid are the facts that completely contradict their claims. Maine women and children have benefited tremendously from the economic turnaround that began in 2010 when voters elected Republicans to control of both chambers of the Legislature and the Governor’s Office.
Let’s set aside for a moment the false stereotype that only women care about children.
Contrary to the mailer’s claims that Republicans are against reducing child poverty, the Maine Children’s Alliance’s 2019 KIDS COUNT report says, “The poverty rate for children in Maine in 2017 was 14.2 percent, a steep decline from 2012 when it was 19.8 percent.” And “Maine’s decline in poverty from 2016-17 was the largest in the country. In one year, nearly 6,400 Maine children were lifted out of poverty.”
Overall, the economy under Republican leadership has allowed women to exert their influence in ways not seen in any other state. At various points over the last several years, Maine has led the nation in six major categories including women’s equality in the workplace and politics, gender parity, the growth of women’s business earnings, economic vitality for women, overall wage growth and reducing child poverty.
In short, more women are working, they are making more money, and their businesses are thriving better than in any other state, while Maine is the second best state for women to access capital.
As to the “gender wage gap,” since Republicans took control of Maine’s economy in 2011 and maintained that control through the executive branch and at least one chamber in the Legislature, the gap has narrowed significantly, moving Maine as high as 8th among states. During that same period of Republican control, Maine’s gender pay gap improved six times faster than it did during the previous eight years under Democrats.
Instead of celebrating the tremendous advantages that women have gained under Republican leadership over the last eight years, the supposedly non-partisan Maine Women’s Lobby continues to ring the same old, tired, partisan bell in an effort to paint a false picture of Republicans that does not hold up to factual scrutiny.
Maine people — including Maine women — deserve better.
Stacey Guerin of Glenburn represents District 10 in the Maine Senate.