As a bill seeking to guarantee equal pay for women advanced through the Legislature, it has been met repeatedly with the same question: What about our own staffers?
It happened again Monday as Assembly members voted overwhelmingly to send Gov. Jerry Brown Assembly Bill 1676, which bars employers from looking exclusively at an applicant’s prior earnings to justify paying a lower salary. Doing so, the theory goes, perpetuates a cycle of lower wages for women.
AB 1676, though, does not specifically cover legislative staff members, prompting accusations of hypocrisy from a few female lawmakers.
“One of my consistent pet peeves of the last six years serving in this house ... has been when we pass bills through this house and pass them into law where we’re imposing them on everyone but us,” said Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Riverbank, who did not vote for the bill.
“I think it’s a slap in the face to the women in this building that work their butt off every single day,” added Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, who also withheld her vote.
Even one of the bill’s co-authors, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, switched to become the lone “no” vote on the bill after the initial vote tally.
In a statement, Garcia criticized Senate amendments to the bill as failing “to recognize the gross pay inequity I have personally witnessed in the state Capitol and are inconsistent with the advocacy I have been doing on behalf our female staff members in the Legislature.
“I was not able to remove my name from the co-authorship because it was too late to amend the bill on the floor,” Garcia said. “While I have a lot of respect for the author and the work she has been doing, today I had to stand with the mothers, wives, nieces, grandmothers and daughters that work in the Capitol who are instrumental to the work that gets done and my vote is a reflection of my respect to them.”
In response to such criticisms, Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, called her bill a good start.
Also counseling patience was Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park. He chairs the Assembly Rules Committee, which oversees employment policies and other Assembly operations, and said his panel was moving closer to ending the gap in which female legislative employees make 95 cents on the dollar paid to male counterparts.
“We’ve been making tremendous progress,” Gordon said. “We have worked hard to improve pay equity in this house.”
When AB 1676 came up on the Senate floor earlier this month, senators said the upper house was working on a similar policy. An email from The Sacramento Bee to Senate officials seeking clarification went unanswered.
Editor’s note: This post was updated at 5:50 p.m. Aug. 29 to include Assemblywoman Garcia’s statement.