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Mississippi residents say proposed equal pay bill still lacking

“Twenty-percent of women in this state are below the poverty rate. Most of those women are black women," said Cassandra Welchlin.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Mississippi is one step closer to addressing the gender wage gap.

Last week, the Mississippi House passed an equal pay bill.

It is the only state in the country without one.

While some say this is a huge step to closing the gender wage gap, others do not think it is enough.

The passing of the equal pay bill in the house is an effort many have been waiting on, but some say that bill still needs more work.

Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable has been heavily involved in advocating for voting rights and polices impacting Black women.

They said while the bill may be in good faith, there are many elements still missing to fully address the problem.

They have drafted amendments to the bill that they want legislators to add.

The group said this bill still allows the discrimination to continue by letting employers set salaries based on salary history.

They want that right gone from the bill because historically, women have made less than men.

Another amendment involves stopping employers from not letting employees discuss their wages with one another.

Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable also said the bill fails to mention anything about race.

The organization said the issue of race wage is even at the center of gender wage.

Executive Director of the organization, Cassandra Welchlin, said Black women lose more than $20,000 each year.

“Twenty-percent of women in this state are below the poverty rate. Most of those women are black women. And so again, having a bill like this makes no sense. And it allows for discrimination to continue in a state where we're trying to dismantle these discriminatory practices,” said Welchlin, Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable Executive Director.

Welchlin said if these amendments are added and the bill passes into law, the entire state of Mississippi will benefit.

“It will cut the poverty rate in half. Mississippi has a very high poverty rate. We know that households in the state that are led by females, and particularly an end disproportion, disproportionately black females, we are in that poverty zone. And so, a household with an extra $21,000 a year as a lot tighter household,” said Welchlin.

The groups said if the state can achieve a successful equal pay bill, about $4.15 billion dollars could go back into the state’s economy.

To make a stand, Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable members have been packing pocketbooks and purses with cookies that have 56-cents on them to leave on all the legislators’ desks at the State Capitol.

The 56-cents represent the 56-cents Black women make on the dollar.