Saturday, April 7, 2012

Walker's Solitary Signing Spree

Politicians like to sign bills in public... usually at places that relate to the bill. Crime bills at cop houses, education bills at schools - that kind of thing. They set up the table, line up the pens and invite the press to come and take pictures.

So it is perhaps no coincidence that Scott Walker decided to sign into law several controversial bills that so damage the rights of women he signed them alone, and in secret.

Among them, outlawing abortion services in health care exchanges, regulations on how doctors must treat and consult with women patients seeking abortion services and a return to the "never worked and never will" abstinence sex ed. in schools.

The most controversial bill however may be SB 202 the repeal of the Equal Pay and Enforcement Act which was passed and signed by Jim Doyle in 2009. The bill is commonly misunderstood to be one which declares equal pay for equal work - a repeal meaning the undoing of such an ideal. This is incorrect, the repeal is a further chipping away at legal rights and opportunities of working people to the sole advantage of employers.

Code word: TORT REFORM

This is a coded term that disguises itself as a streamlining or common sense maintenance of a legal system run amok. Frivolous lawsuits and shyster attorney's who crowd the courts with baloney suits that paralyze and terrorize poor corporations who are just trying to be good job creators.

Tort reform is the favorite child of the ALEC crowd. In small measures they restrict the ability of people who have been discriminated against, cheated or harmed to have their day in court. Without equal access, offenders have a much easier time carrying on in their ways without fear of punitive damages - which may be the only thing they do fear.

Remember that bill earlier in the session that gave immunity to medical device companies and big pharma if they injured or killed someone with their product - as long as it was approved by the FDA? That's tort reform. What's the point of suing the company that killed little Jimmy with a bad drug - if the drug company has immunity from punitive damages? What lawyer in their right mind would even take such a case?

It is the same with the pay equity repeal. Under the Equal Pay and Enforcement Act a person who had successfully proven they had been a victim of pay discrimination could bring suit against that employer for attorney's fees and damages. It was a powerful deterrent like a good law should be.

Under the Equal Pay and Enforcement Act the pay equity imbalance for women in Wisconsin actually improved a percent and not one case was brought to court.

The repeal of the Equal Pay Act removes the teeth from discrimination lawsuits, relegates cases only to Federal court which does not cover employers with less than 15 employees, nor does it address cases of sexual identity or arrest record.

Who profits? The employers of course and they are the ones who pay the bills at ALEC who love this legislation.

The repeal of the Equal Pay and Enforcement Act send the message to all Wisconsin workers that state law will not enforce your right to equal pay, but instead sides with those intent on furthering discrimination and gaming the system to their advantage.

No wonder Walker signed this bill in secret.