In case this was not already clear, Attorney General Greg Abbott would veto the equal pay bill that Governor Rick Perry notoriously vetoed last summer. In a report published this morning by the Associated Press, Abbott –the Republican nominee for Governor– unequivocally noted he would not sign a bill that would open State courts to women wronged by unequal wages on account of their gender. He has been avoiding the subject for months on end, equivocating as to the question at hand as recently as one week ago. The issue at the heart of this is how women wronged by a system that pays them, on average, 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, can sue their employers for discrimination. Since 2009, women have been able to sue in Federal Court. However, this is a rather costly alternative to State courts, which is why the State bills have seen much attention in recent years.
The Dallas Morning News is now noting that Abbott has fired back against his Democratic opponent for Governor, State Senator Wendy Davis. Specifically, Abbott’s campaign has accused Davis of hypocrisy when it comes to support over the equal pay bill. Because Davis used to be of counsel to the Tarrant Regional Water District, Abbott argues, she is complicit in the same argument he has been criticized for, on account of the fact that the Water District has employed similar maneuvers in defending against women suing for unequal wages. The trouble with this is that the Water District hired a law firm other than Davis’ when defending against this claim, and Davis was not a part of the defense.
Peggy Fikac at the San Antonio Express-News also put out a bombshell of an article today noting that pay disparities by gender existed, in all places, at the Attorney General’s office (Editorial note: The article is linked via its sister paper, the Houston Chronicle, given more of our readers subscribe to that paper).
While there were, of course, confounding variables involving many of these employees, including varying degrees of experience and service, the averages unmistakeably show that women were paid less. Fikac noted this, writing: “In several categories of assistant attorney general, women, on average, had more years of service, had been licensed longer or both, but were paid less.”
These revelations come on the heels of days-old report in The Dallas Morning News that quotes the executive director of the newly formed group “Red State Women,” Cari Cristman, in saying that women do not receive equal pay because they are evidently too busy or lousy at negotiating. The comments set off a firestorm among politically-minded all over the State, and put Abbott on the defensive for the second time in recent memory.
In summation, Abbott would veto an equal pay bill, responds with a straw-man retort against Davis and is guilty of the disparities in his office. Make no mistake, the Davis campaign has punched back. After stumbling early and being on the defensive throughout much of the primary leadup, the Democratic candidate has apparently found her footing and is firing back in an effective way no other Democrat in Texas has done in recent memory. I hope we have copious polling in the near future, as long as it isn’t from the Texas Tribune.