Duckworth holds press call on gender wage discrimination

Robin Opsahl, City Editor

Rep. Tammy Duckworth’s (D-Ill.) campaign used Equal Pay Day as a platform to highlight differences between her and Sen. Mark Kirk’s (R-Ill.) voting record to end wage discrimination in the workforce.

Duckworth’s campaign hosted a press call Tuesday afternoon to talk about the continuing wage discrimination in the workforce, as well as current and past legislation to combat the issue. In addition to media representatives from Duckworth’s campaign and the Democratic Party of Illinois, State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) and Jess McIntosh, vice president of communications for Emily’s List — an organization supporting pro-choice democratic women running for office — spoke during the call.

Equal Pay Day represents how many extra days the average woman needs to work to earn the same amount as the average man earned in the previous year. Women in Illinois make 79.2 cents for every dollar a man makes, according to the National Women’s Law Center. For women of color, the gap increases: In the state, black women make 63.9 cents and Latina women make 47.9 cents per dollar that a white man makes, according to studies done by the institute.

The average woman in Illinois loses $10,700 a year because of wage inequality, which hurts families and children throughout the state, Cassidy said.

“Families like mine, with two women as the heads of household, take a double hit in that regard,” Cassidy said. “It’s important … to talk about what is at stake in this election.”

Cassidy also brought up Kirk’s voting record in ending wage discrimination. She said the senator had voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, as well as against increasing the minimum wage.

McIntosh advocated for Duckworth’s appointment on this issue because of Kirk’s “consistent poor judgment” in voting on issues of wage inequality.

Time and again, Kirk has blocked opportunities to end gender discrimination and he’s continued to support Donald Trump, who believes women don’t do as good a job as men in the workplace,” McIntosh said. “Republican Mark Kirk just doesn’t understand the challenges faced by Illinois women and families, and it’s time to elect someone who does.”

Although speakers on the press call criticized Kirk for his gender discrimination, Kirk wrote a letter with five other senators to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, to move the 2017 NBA All-Star game out of Charlotte, North Carolina in protest of the state’s recent legislation targeting transgender people in the state. Kirk has also been endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign.

According to polling following the March 15 primaries, Duckworth was polling at nearly 43 percent to Kirk’s nearly 40 percent, with 18 percent of voters still undecided.

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Twitter: @robinlopsahl