Ross announces plan to strengthen equal pay law, says proposal should have bipartisan support

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LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Mike Ross unveiled a plan Friday aimed at ensuring equal pay for women in the workplace, saying he's confident such a proposal could gain support from Republican state lawmakers.

Ross was joined Friday by his wife, daughter and current first lady Ginger Beebe to announce his fair pay proposal, which calls for strengthening state law to prevent retaliation against workers who discuss their wages with colleagues, as well as more training for employers.

The plan also calls for protecting employees from retaliation for raising concerns about gender-based wage discrimination, as well and providing training for women and girls on pay negotiations and how to better recognize salary disparities in the workplace.

"It doesn't just affect the women, it affects their families," he said. "It's not fair and I feel very strongly about my plan to try to ensure that we have equal pay for equal work in Arkansas."

The former congressman used Friday's event to promote policies that he said would benefit women and girls — including more funding for prekindergarten programs, reauthorizing the state's Medicaid expansion plan and increasing Arkansas' minimum wage.

Democratic candidates nationwide are pressing their advantage with women after recent elections showed that there is a large gender gap with women more likely to support the party .

Ross said he was confident both Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature would back his plan for fair pay. Republicans are expected to have control of the Senate when the Legislature convenes next year, while control of the House will be decided in the November election.

"I can't imagine anybody, Democrat or Republican, being opposed to women being paid the same as men when they're doing the same job. I can't imagine that anybody would be against that," Ross said. "I think it'll be a bipartisan proposal and something that we can get done."

Ross' GOP opponent, Asa Hutchinson, said his own campaign is doing well among women voters because he's focusing on issues like job creation, education and public safety.

"I fully support fair pay that is based on qualifications and ability, and there is no place for unfair treatment of employees based on sex," Hutchinson said Friday. "I hope this is something we can all agree on, especially because I have a daughter and granddaughter, and I want them to have the same opportunities as my sons and grandsons."


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