The anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution giving all women the right to vote is August 26. According to Charlotte Klasson, President of the Louisiana Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW), “This is the only constitutionally guaranteed right women have.” Originally called Women’s Suffrage Day, the date has been designated by Congress as Women’s Equality Day.
“This is a misnomer,” says Klasson. “As long as women have to fight year after year for equal pay legislation to guarantee the right to redress for inequities in salaries between men and women, equality for women is not a reality. Women in Louisiana make sixty-nine cents for every dollar a man makes doing the same work. This is not equality.”
Klasson said that federal pay equity legislation has been re-introduced in Congress several times. “But as long as the current Congressional climate is resting on a cloud of political posturing instead of representing the needs of constituents, we are not going to see equality for women on the federal level.” The Louisiana Legislature adopted pay equity legislation in the 2013 Session, but, according to Klasson, the legislature restricted the coverage of protections to only state employees even though the original bill was drafted to include all employees. “It is significant,” she said, “that there was resistance to extending the law’s application to all employees in Louisiana.”
“Louisiana NOW celebrates the anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment and the Constitutional right of women to vote, but,” Klasson says, “full constitutional equality for women is still elusive and the mere designation of a day as Women’s Equality Day does not bestow equality to women.”
Klasson added that an additional piece of legislation, which NOW will be monitoring carefully, passed in the form of House Concurrent Resolution No. 145, which established a Fair Pay Task Force. The Task Force is charged with studying the extent of wage disparities between men and women in the workforce, developing policy recommendations and legislation likely to lead to the prevention and elimination of wage disparities between the sexes, and submitting a final report on its findings by March 1, 2014.