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Mailers Accuse GOP State Senators Of Opposing Equal Pay For Equal Work

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Republican state senators in Kennebec, Somerset and Lincoln counties have been targeted with mailers saying that they oppose equal pay for equal work. The GOP lawmakers say the messaging is not true, but the group distributing the mailers says that it is just trying to educate voters about the pay equity issue.

The mailers name individual senators, saying that they “voted with corporate special interests ...by opposing equal pay for equal work.”

Whitney Parrish is with the Maine Women's Lobby Education fund, the group behind the messaging campaign.

“It’s not necessarily targeting candidates or races, but it is bringing visibility to this vote, as to how our elected officials do vote, and hopefully empowering voters with that information,” Parrish says.

“I want to be crystal clear that I don’t think a pay gap is acceptable,” says Republican Matt Pouliot of Augusta, one of the senators named in the mailings. He insists that he is fully in favor of pay equity.

“If this were a bill on whether or not we should have a pay gap in Maine, and we could push yes to eliminate the pay gap, I would be the first one to push the yes-button,” he says.

Instead, Pouliot says, the mailings cite a measure he opposed earlier this year that bans employers from asking a job applicant about his or her past salary.

Parrish acknowledges that the measure in question does not affect equal pay for equal work, but says: "It is a piece of the puzzle. It’s a piece that can hopefully start to close the wage gap — is discrimination that women have experienced in the workplace that has followed them."

Pouliot says both state and federal laws already require equal pay for equal work, and that more must be done to enforce them. But, he says, that will require a bipartisan legislative effort, which is made more difficult when these kinds of targeted mailers are being distributed well before the next election.

“When these types of attacks are sent out, whether they are a year in advance or in an election cycle, they do nothing to help build the trust that is necessary to focus on real policy solutions to improve the state,” Pouliot says.

It is unusual to see issue mailers being distributed a year before the general election, since all or some of the incumbent senators may decide not to seek re-election, or could lose in a primary. But given the hundreds of thousands of dollars in TV ads that are already targeting congressional candidates, it is likely that more mailers aimed at legislative candidates will emerge in the months ahead.

Originally posted 2:37 p.m. Nov. 22, 2019