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State Chamber of Commerce attacks equal pay for women bill

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OKLAHOMA - Equal pay for women took a direct hit from the State Chamber of Commerce.

Right now, women make 73 cents on the dollar, compared to men.

A bill that would change that sailed through the House and Senate.

Then, came the letter.

The bill has been in committee to work out some of the language, and then a big blow came Wednesday afternoon from the business community.

The State Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to lawmakers urging them to vote 'no' on the equal pay bill.

College seniors have a lot on their plate right now, looking for a job after graduation.

But, in that first job, women will likely make about 80 percent of what men do right off the bat.

“It kind of does seem old fashioned to me, and I think everyone should be paid equally,” said Amber Taylor.

The equal pay bill, HB2929, would do a couple of things, like increase fines for employers who are found guilty of pay discrimination.

“It has transparency language in it which essentially says, as a woman, if you talk about your wages at work with a coworker, then you can’t get fired for that. That allows women to have a better understanding of what they’re making in terms of what their counterpart’s making,” said Rep. Jason Dunnington.

The authors of the bill were shocked when the State Chamber’s letter came out Wednesday afternoon, urging lawmakers to vote against the bill.

“From the beginning, they said they were neutral. As a matter of fact, some members of the chamber said they liked the idea of showing Oklahoma as being equal opportunity for men versus women, and so I think that them coming out this late in the game is very unusual,” said Rep. Kyle Loveless.

Jonathan Buxton is the Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at the State Chamber of Oklahoma.

“It creates uncertainty,” Buxton said.

Leaders at the State Chamber said they don’t like steeper fines and they don’t like the idea of employees talking with each other about how much they make.

“This is just too onerous right now on employers of Oklahoma, and it’ll interfere on that relationship that employers can build with the female employees,” Buxton said.

Those backing the bill disagree and said it’s mean to attract the best and the brightest to Oklahoma – men or women.

“This is going to affect businesses that are bad actors on this, businesses that refuse to pay women the same as men for doing the same work,” Dunnington said.

The bill is headed back to the House floor and is expected to be heard on the Senate floor as early as next week.