House Committee Rejects Bills To Raise Minimum Wage, Expand Equal Pay
Earlier this week, the full Senate rejected bills that would establish a state minimum wage and expand equal pay for women in Louisiana. On Thursday, a labor committee showed there's not much appetite for those policies in the House, either.
Right now, equal pay for women is only enforced for state workers. Rep. Joe Bouie (D-New Orleans) wanted to extend that to include state contractors.
"Louisiana remains among the worst states in the nation for working women, with a wage gap between male and female earners that is wider than anywhere else in this nation," he told members of the House Labor Committee.
But opponents — mainly business groups — warned this would open the door to lawsuits from employees who don't believe they're being paid fairly. Dawn Starns is the State Director of the National Federation of Independent Business, representing small business owners in Louisiana.
"They don't want to constantly live in the fear of being sued for whatever new law y'all put on the books," she explained.
Renee Amar with the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry says workers, "have adequate protections already," with wage laws in place at the state and federal level.
Supporters say those laws haven't erased the disparity. On average, women in Louisiana make about 60 cents on the dollar.
Rep. Bouie presented another bill that would raise minimum wage in Louisiana from $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour.
Maria Harmon is the co-director of Step Up Louisiana, an advocacy group in support of the bill. She says at the current wage, people can't afford basic needs, so they have to rely on the state for help.
“If people were to make a living wage," she said, "we would see an improvement in the economy. We wouldn’t have so many people on government assistance.”
Industry groups again opposed the bill, saying these kind of mandates have a chilling effect on business.
Both bills failed to pass the House Labor committee.