McEntee: Utah women bring equal-pay plea to Chaffetz
U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz cordially greeted visitors to his Cottonwood Heights office Monday as they brought in a letter and a small cake to teach him a little lesson.
Maxine Haggerty, a retired librarian, gave Chaffetz precisely 23 percent of the cake to show that, nationally, women make 77 percent on the dollar compared with men.
Taken aback, Chaffetz said, "I'm not going to eat that!"
Another guest, Marti Weber, added that in Utah, women make 27 cents less per dollar.
"Not in my office," Chaffetz said. "Those aren't the rules here."
His top two employees in that office, the Utah Republican said, are women who've worked with him since his first campaign in 2008 for the 3rd District seat. His six guests were members of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) of Utah. All but one are retired and, as they said, have time to campaign for equal pay for equal work.
Chaffetz and other members of Utah's congressional delegation voted against the 2012 Paycheck Fairness Act.
In April, the Republican-controlled House defeated an effort to bring the 2013 bill to the floor for a vote.
That version would have: imposed tougher penalties for employers who violate the act; prohibited bosses from retaliating against employees who share salary information with their co-workers; and required employers who make legitimate employment decisions based on "factors other than sex" to prove they are job-related and necessary to the business.
Getting an education equal to that of men helps women, Weber said, but isn't enough.
"In the first year, a woman is 7 percent behind a man" in pay, she said. "She's always behind, and that's because there aren't these protections to assure she can be guaranteed an equal wage."
Weber, who works for the federal Social Security Administration and is president of Utah's AAUW, said she knows "exactly what everybody is making. In private industry, a woman doesn't have the right to know what the men she's working with are making."
Meantime, about 40 percent of working women are single heads of households.
"Yes," Chaffetz said. "That's a growing issue."
The lag in pay is significant, Weber explained. "If a single woman's family is suffering, they may have to turn to society" for food stamps and other aid.
"If she was getting a fair wage," Weber said, "she might not have to rely on those systems."
Chaffetz seemed to agree.
"It's amazing in this day and age that this still happens," he said. "I hear stories, I've met people. It's intolerable."
Chaffetz also mentioned his own family: his wife, a 20-year-old son on an LDS Church mission and two daughters in public schools.
"You love your daughters as much as you love your son," Weber said. Why, she asked, shouldn't they make equal pay?
During the meeting, the AAUW women insisted that Chaffetz read their letter to him aloud.
"Then we know you've really read it," Haggerty said.
So he did, then told them he had to make a flight back to Washington, D.C. He promised to read the bill, HR 377, but true to his profession, made no other commitment.
Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter, @Peg McEntee.