BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s minimum wage will remain at the lowest amount allowed by federal law, lawmakers decided Thursday. They also refused to enact a requirement that state contractors pay men and women equal wages.
There was little debate before the demise of the bills that would have implemented a $15 an hour minimum wage and mandated companies with state contracts to pay male and female employees doing similar jobs the same amount of money.
Instead, representatives in the House labor committee laughed about how many times such legislation was introduced. One recited the phone number for the federal agency that hears wage discrimination complaints and another noted that the partisan split of the panel would ensure that the measures would fail.
“Last question, and this is — never mind, I’m not going to go there ’cause I can count and I know what’s going to happen with this bill, so I’ll talk to you guys on another day,” Rep. Ted James told the equal pay bill’s opponents.
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The proposals, sponsored by New Orleans Democratic Rep. Joe Bouie, reached the committee days after the Senate killed a similar equal pay measure as well as a bill raising the minimum wage to $8.50 by 2020.
Bouie said the legislature should have to address the fact that women in the state earn less than men and that Louisiana’s federally-set minimum wage of $7.25 an hour isn’t enough to support a worker.
He asked lawmakers not to decide the equal pay bill’s fate in committee. “Let’s debate this on the floor. Let’s talk about this as a body to see if we want to address this condition in our great state,” he said. But the committee voted it down along party lines.
Dawn Starns, state director of The National Federation of Independent Business, and Renee Amar, of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, testified against both bills.
Starns told lawmakers that it’s already difficult for businesses to contract with the state, and that the equal pay bill would add regulation and make that process harder. Amar said raising the minimum wage that high would also raise prices for consumers.
Among the supporters for the minimum wage increase was Jerwana Newman, a 21-year-old mother from New Orleans. She said she works at a McDonald’s and at a nursing home, often doing double shifts during a seven day work week that leaves her little time to see her 1-year-old daughter.
“All I’m asking is at least consider giving us a fair chance of making the same amount as everybody else,” she said.