On April 17, women’s earnings from 2011 and 2012 will finally match their male counterparts’ 2011 earnings. Yes, it takes women a little over 15 months to make the same income that it takes men to make in 12. How is it that in 2012, women are still only making 77 cents to a man’s dollar? We have been fighting for equality for so long! We have had success – like the Equal Pay Act and, more recently, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. But we still have a long way to go.

We have even further to go now that the Wisconsin legislature and the Governor of Wisconsin repealed the state’s Equal Pay Enforcement Act, which beefed up the penalties for pay discrimination and the relief available to victims. This means that if a woman in Wisconsin finds that she is being paid less than her male counterpart, she has fewer remedies and less relief available to her than she did before.  And given that pay discrimination is hard to identify and hard to challenge, that’s definitely a step in the wrong direction.

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association was among the supporters of the repeal, which is pretty unsettling to me. Currently the tipped minimum wage stands at $2.13/hour, where it’s been stuck since 1991. Women make up two-thirds of employees in tipped jobs.

If we raised the minimum wage and tipped minimum wage, there would be a smaller wage gap and fewer families would be suffering like they are now.

I’m a recent college graduate and in addition to interning with the National Women’s Law Center, I work a restaurant job where I make under minimum wage (plus tips). I find it hard enough to provide just for myself, I can’t imagine how difficult it would be if I had children to feed. There have been days where I’ve only received $5 in tips, which is just enough to buy me lunch in between my double shifts. With rent, a car payment, student loan payments, credit card bills, and putting gas in my car to get to and from work, the tipped minimum does not cut it.

I hope that other governors and state legislatures don’t follow Wisconsin’s lead and try to send women back in time.  An increased minimum wage—including the tipped minimum wage—and more vigorous efforts to combat pay discrimination is what women need in 2012.

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