One would think that a commission on pay equity would be a welcoming environment for women, but yesterday’s testimony on the Pay Equity Commission revealed a troubling history of bullying and abuse by the commission’s leadership – and a failure to produce any work product. The decision to retire the Pay Equity Commission was supported by the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Colorado Association of of Commerce and Industry as well as female business owners, who testified.
The Denver Business Journal highlighted some of the bullying that went on in the Commission’s proceedings:
“Patty Kurgan, owner of supply-chain consulting company Astro Logics Inc. of Denver, said she was told by other commission members that she was not allowed to talk when she tried to bring up studies arguing [that pay equity was an issue of differing job roles, hours worked, etc.].”
Another women who testified against the renewal of the toxic asset, business owner and current commission member Kathie Barstnar noted that the Commission simply had devolved into “ways for women to sue or to form and join unions”, according to the DBJ.
In fact, the commission’s refusal to acknowledge small business owners was so bad as far back as 2012 that the NFIB sent a letter to Ellen Golombek, executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, outlining that pay equity is too often misleading and used as a political wedge issue:
“The commission has ignored the points above and many others that have been brought to their attention since the inception of this commission. Small business has been shut out because of its refusal to accept misleading and inaccurate information that is driven by emotion and unions. Small business in Colorado includes 532,106 small employers in 2006, representing 97.8% of the state’s employers and 51.7% of its private-sector employment….This is not a group to be ignored. It should be noted here that large business employers have not even been involved in this discussion as their representative left shortly after the formation of the commission and a new representative has never been named. The combination of small business employers and large business employers being ignored is unjustified and inexcusable.”
Executive Director of Compass Colorado Kelly Maher also weighed in on the issue:
“Senate Republicans stood with the numerous businesswomen who testified [that] there are better approaches to addressing concerns than through intimidation and the unnecessary vilification of business.”
But, it wasn’t just the bullying that was a problem. The Denver Post reports that the commission never really did anything:
“Although part of the commission’s task was to make recommendations to the state labor director about possible legislation, it never made any in the 21 meetings it held, the DORA report shows. However, it was instrumental in a number of education campaigns designed to enlighten businesses about issues of pay inequity based on race and gender.”
While some outlets allege that this is business flexing its muscle, it’s pretty clear that this Commission was failing women on multiple levels and had outlived its usefulness.