A Republican lawmaker’s remarks went viral this week after she suggested that legislation dealing with women in the workplace makes women “look like whiners," the Woodbury Bulletin reports.
During a Minnesota House committee hearing on March 12, Rep. Andrea Kieffer, R-Woodbury, commented on the Women’s Economic Security Act, which includes several measures aimed at improving economic opportunities for women.
“We heard several bills last week about women’s issues and I kept thinking to myself, ‘These bills are putting us backwards in time,’" Kieffer said at the hearing. "We are losing the respect that we so dearly want in the workplace by bringing up all these special bills for women and almost making us look like whiners.”
Alliance for a Better Minnesota, a progressive group, posted audio of Kieffer's comments on its website, and the story quickly spread to other sites including the Huffington Post, MSNBC, Salon and Time.
The Women's Economic Security Act aims to improve the economic standing of women in Minnesota, according to its authors. It calls for increasing the state's minimum wage to $9.50 per hour; closing the gender pay gap; expanding access to affordable child care; expanding family and sick leave; and supporting women in non-traditional jobs or who own small businesses.
A yearly survey released by the American Association of University Women says the "gender gap" between what men and women earn in similar jobs still exists. Nationally, women earn 77 cents for every $1 a man earns, according to the survey. In Minnesota, it's 80 cents.
House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, responded to Kieffer's comments in an email to HuffPost, saying it's "not whining" to want the wage gap to be closed. "That is a reality that we should not accept."
"Too often women are branded as 'whiners' when they challenge unfairness in our laws and society. The reality is that women in Minnesota and throughout our country face unique economic barriers and everyone deserves a fair chance at success," Murphy added.
Kieffer did not respond to requests seeking comment.
The measure would help reduce the pay disparity between men and women by requiring businesses that contract with the state to study whether men and women are being paid the same for doing similar work, MPR News reports.
MPR spoke to Maria Veach, the owner of three Culver's Restaurant franchises in Minnesota. She said if she is required to pay one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours an employee works, it could harm her bottom line.
The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce is concerned about the provision that would require an equal pay study, according to MPR, saying it could put Minnesota at a disadvantage when competing for business with other states.
"The more you impose these fixed costs on employing people in Minnesota, the harder it is for those businesses to be able to survive in Minnesota," said Beth Kadoun, director of tax and fiscal policy for the chamber.
The House Jobs and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee is holding a hearing on the bill Thursday afternoon. Rep. Kieffer is a member of that committee.
Kieffer is serving her second term in the House, and announced late last year she is not seeking re-election. She is one of five Republican lawmakers who voted in favor of the same-sex marriage law last year.