Delgado proposes pay equity ordinance for City of Hattiesburg

By HASKEL BURNS,

As much as societal norms have progressed over the years, Hattiesburg City Council member Deborah Delgado would have liked to think equal pay between men and women would not be an issue in 2020.

However, an article she recently received from the National Women’s Law Center – titled “Mississippi is Shortchanging Women” – has strengthened her belief in the opposite of that notion, leading her to propose the creation of a pay equity ordinance in the City of Hattiesburg.

“In the stats that we got, in the communities that had pay equity ordinances, the economy was better,” Delgado said at a recent council work session. “Women operate in positions just as men have been for many years, so you would think this is not necessary.

“But when studies are done to question whether there’s pay equity, the determination is that there is not. The point is that we really do need to consider enacting a pay equity ordinance.”

According to the National Women’s Law Center’s article, Mississippi has one of the largest gender wage gaps in the country, with women typically making just 75 cents for every dollar paid to men. In addition, Mississippi has the highest poverty rate for women in the nation: 20.8 percent of women in the state live in poverty, much higher than the national figure of 12.8 percent.

Mississippi also has one of the highest insurance rates for women in the nation, with 16 percent of women aged 18-64 uninsured, compared to 10.6 percent nationally.

“Certainly, we know the state of Mississippi doesn’t have (a pay equity) ordinance, but I notice that Jackson did adopt one,” said Delgado, who represents Ward 2. “I think that we need to move the needle forward when it comes to the rights of women.

“Pay equity has been presented to the Mississippi Legislature many times over the years, and it has never been adopted, never has gotten that much attention. So people who are concerned about women’s rights have taken it to the local communities, and I, as an advocate for women’s rights, am presenting it to my council today.”

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures website, 42 states have equal pay laws, although the average salary for women is about 24 percent less than that of the average male salary. The disparity is even greater for black and Hispanic women, with black women earning 64 cents – and Hispanic women earning 56 cents – to ever dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men.

“I would encourage people in the City of Hattiesburg – in particular, women who are being short-changed – to step forward and call us and talk about this issue,” Delgado said.