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Utah Republican argues against equal pay for women: It’s ‘bad for families’ and society

Snow rests on the sign on the Utah state Capitol on the opening day of the 2017 session in Salt Lake City, Jan. 23. (Scott G Winterton/Deseret News via AP)

In a letter criticizing a bill that addresses pay gap in the workforce, a Utah Republican said that men have traditionally earned more than women and, citing “simple economics,” argued that things should stay that way.

James Green’s letter to the editor, published in two local publications earlier this week, immediately prompted such outrage that within two days, Green had written an apology and resigned from his post as vice chair of the Wasatch County Republican Party.

Green said in his letter, published Wednesday by the Park Record and the Wasatch Wave, that men make more than women because they’re “the primary breadwinners” of their families, and paying women equally would somehow ruin the makeup of a traditional family where “the Mother” remains at home raising children.

“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,” Green wrote. “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 having more women in the workforce would create competition for jobs, “even men’s jobs,” Green wrote. That will, in turn, lower the pay for all jobs and force “more and more Mothers” into the workforce, he argued.

That’s “bad for families and thus for all of society,” Green wrote. “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’s comments were directed at Senate Bill 210, which would make changes to laws related to employee pay in the state. The bill, authored by state Sen. Jacob Anderegg, a fellow Utah Republican, would commission a study on whether there’s a pay gap between male and female workers in the state. It would require certain employers to adopt a uniform criteria that will be used to determine whether someone should get a raise based on performance, and would create a pay index that states the average pay range for each occupation based on years of experience.

SB 210 was introduced on Monday.

Shortly after its publication, Green’s letter was met with a sharp response.

State Rep. Tim Quinn, a Republican who represents Utah’s 54th district, which includes Wasatch County, denounced the comments and distanced himself from Green. Wasatch County, with a population of a little more than 29,000, is southeast of Salt Lake City.

In the federal government, how likely is it that a woman will make more than a man?

“I am shocked and appalled to learn how James Green feels about equal pay for women. I don’t know where this belief came from,” Quinn said in a statement, according to Fox affiliate KSTU. “I do not subscribe publicly or privately to the words or the spirit behind these words, thoughts or ideas. Of course, the Wasatch County Republican Party and I are for equal pay and rights for all people.”

A history of the long fight for gender wage equality. (Video: Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

The Utah Women’s Coalition, which supports SB 210, took to social media with its criticism of Green’s comments.

“Are we really having this conversation in 2017?” asked a Facebook post sharing a local story about Green.

The coalition’s Stephanie Pitcher told Fox affiliate KSTU that the bluntness of Green’s remarks were “very disappointing” and contradicts the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, as well as anti-discrimination provisions in state law.

“He was very straightforward and blunt about his thoughts on women in the workforce and that was really surprising, but the first thing I noticed was a very open recognition that there is a pay disparity between men and women,” Pitcher told KSTU of Green.

Green did not return a call from The Washington Post on Saturday. But he told KSTU that he has been in “hot water” since his letter was published.

“You wouldn’t believe the hateful, vile comments and messages I’ve received,” Green told KSTU, adding that he decided to resign from his position as vice chair of the Wasatch County GOP because he “didn’t want to hurt the party,” which he said was getting blamed for his comments.

For one group of women, the gender wage gap keeps getting worse

Green then wrote a second letter saying his comments are not representative of the Wasatch County GOP or the Republican Party in general and apologizing to those who have been offended.

“I want to clarify that the main focus of my letter was 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,” Green wrote, according to KSTU. “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.”

He also said he values women’s contributions in the workforce, and that he was only pointing out the “historical reasons for pay disparity.”

“While I worked my fingers to the bone (with numerous extra side jobs) so my Wife could say 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,” Green wrote.

A spokeswoman for the Utah GOP told the TV station on Friday afternoon that Green had resigned. Efforts to reach the Utah GOP on Saturday were unsuccessful.

Women in Utah make 71 cents for every dollar paid to men, according to the National Women’s Law Center. That’s lower than the national average, which is 80 cents for every dollar paid to men.

Black and Latina women in the state make 56 cents and 47 cents for every dollar paid to white men, respectively, according to the center. Both numbers are below the national averages: 63 cents for black women and 54 cents for Latina women.

The center’s report does not indicate that the discrepancies in pay are for the same occupation.

Politicians have repeatedly pointed out that women make less than men. But as The Post’s Glenn Kessler pointed out last year, the specific number on the pay difference is an overused “factoid” that has become a major talking point for Democrats but fails to capture some of the nuances in the workforce.

Although few experts dispute the existence of a pay gap, that number does not take into account differences in life choices between men and women — such as women tending to leave the workforce when they have children, Kessler wrote.


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