Senator Kamala Harris Confronts the Wage Gap in Latest Policy Proposal

Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) announced a proposal that would address the gender wage gap in the United States. The Democratic presidential hopeful’s plan would require large companies to periodically obtain certification of equal pay.

The plan would require companies with 100 or more employees to get an “equal pay certification” within two years of Harris’ inauguration to prove that men and women are paid equally for equal work. Companies that fail to get the certification would be fined 1 percent of their profits for every 1 percent wage gap, according to Harris’ campaign site.

“When you lift up the economic status of women, you lift up the economic status of families and communities and all of society. But yet in America today, women, for the same work, for the equal work, on average make 80 cents on the dollar,” Harris said at a campaign event in South Los Angeles on May 19. “Black women make 61 cents on the dollar. Latinas make 53 cents on the dollar and this has got to end.”

A recent analysis by the National Women’s Law Center found that women miss out on more than $400,000 in wages over a 40-year career based on today’s wage gap, CNBC reported. The center found that the lifetime wage gap reaches $946,120 for Black women and more than $1.1 million for Latinas.

Harris’ campaign projected that $180 billion could be raised from fines in the next decade, which would then be used to fund paid family and medical leave. According to CBS News, money raised would be directed to the Family Act, a proposal introduced by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). The Family Act aims to create a national insurance fund to pay up to 12 weeks of paid family or medical leave.

Harris’ plan would also require corporations to report the number of women in leadership position and prohibit them from using forced arbitration when dealing with pay discrimination claims. Companies would also be banned from asking potential employees about their previous salary history. Federal contractors who fail to get certified would not be allowed to compete for federal contracts over $500,000.

“For too long, we’ve put the burden entirely on workers to hold corporations accountable for pay discrimination through costly lawsuits that are increasingly difficult to prove,” Harris’ campaign said in its announcement, according to The New York Times. “We’ve let corporations hide their wage gaps, but forced women to stand up in court just to get the pay they’ve earned.”

Blair Ellis, the press secretary of the Republican National Committee, criticized Harris’ plan as a punishment against American companies. “We don’t need to strap new regulations, burdens, or fines on businesses to create opportunities for women, and President Trump’s economic record is a testament to that,” Ellis told CBS News.

Harris has released two other policy proposals as part of her presidential campaign. In March, the California Democrat promised to invest federal money into increasing teacher pay. Harris’ proposal would establish incentivized baselines for teacher salaries at local school districts which would be tied to federal funds, The New York Times reported.

In April, Harris committed to a number of executive actions on gun control measures. Among those proposals is a ban on AR-15 style imports, according to CBS News.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll placed Harris as the fourth pick for the party nomination among Democratic and leaning Democratic voters among 8 percent of the respondents. Leading the poll were former vice president Joe Biden (35 percent), Senator Bernie Sanders (16 percent), and Senator Elizabeth Warren (13 percent). South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg finished out the top five picks with 5 percent.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.