The Georgia senate candidates’ most interesting records on equal pay are in business, and they’re worth close attention. Read the other state-by-state analyses in this series here.
Early observers pegged the Georgia midterm senate race as one to watch, and they’ve been spot on so far. Democratic challenger Michelle Nunn and Republican contender David Perdue – legacies of two of Georgia’s most established political families who both happen to be from the tiny town of Perry – have been polling neck and neck for the past few weeks. At this point, many project the election in November will result in a January runoff.
Currently Nunn is polling at 45 percent, three points behind Perdue’s 48 percent, and her lead among women voters is down from 13 points to two. Even though Georgia has historically ranked low on female voter turnout, it is likely women voters will determine the outcome of the race. And for good reason: the winner will influence a number of issues that impact the lives of women, particularly women of color, both at the state and national level.
Where do Women in Georgia Stand?
- Georgia’s current poverty rate of almost 20 percent is 50 percent higher than it was in 2000. Among black and Latina women, the rate is even higher: 33 and 36 percent, respectively. Forty percent of families led by single mothers are in poverty.
- Georgia has the fifth largest uninsured population in the country. Thirty percent of women in Georgia – 20 percent of white women, 29.4 percent of African-American women, and 53.1 percent of Hispanic women – have no health coverage.
- If Georgia were to participate in Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), nearly 350,000 women would become insured. Expansion would generate the development of 70,343 jobs statewide in the next decade, would bring $33 billion of new federal funding into the state, and stimulate $1.8 billion in new state revenue.
- More women in Georgia die of pregnancy-related causes than women in all but two other states. The state’s maternal mortality rate (MMR) – the number of women who die for every 100,000 births – has more than doubled since 2004 and is now 35.5 (a shocking 63.8 for black women and 24.6 for white women). That is almost twice the national MMR of 18.5.
- Georgia has the highest unemployment rate in the United States, at 7.9 percent. It also has the highest unemployment gap between men and women, with 1.5 percent more women unemployed than men.
- Georgia women who do work receive only 76.4 cents to the dollar compared to their male counterparts. The minimum wage in Georgia is $5.15 per hour, the lowest in the country, though workers are paid the higher federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Women are particularly affected by low minimum wages, comprising two-thirds of all minimum wage workers. More than 75 percent of these women are age 20 or older, and, if they are single with children, a full-time minimum wage job will not provide enough income to keep them above the poverty line.
Where Do the Candidates Stand?
Perdue’s campaign platform seeks to repeal the ACA and “replace it with a solution that works to lower costs and put patients in control of their health care decisions.” He believes the health law is harmful to small businesses and argues that its repeal will help strengthen the economy.
Nunn states that she supports the ACA and adopting Medicaid expansion in Georgia, and she did not support the 2013 government shutdown, which was driven by GOP opposition to many of the law’s key provisions, such as mandatory coverage of contraceptives. Nunn’s emphasis has been on fixing, not eliminating the ACA. She has proposed adding a more affordable tier of coverage and extending the tax credit for small businesses. “Here in Georgia–because we did not accept Medicaid expansion–a number of our rural hospitals are now having cuts that are really problematic. So I am running as someone who wants to fix the things that are broken in the health care system and build upon the things that are good, including ensuring that people who have preexisting conditions have access to health care, that kids up to age 26 have the opportunity to be covered by their parents.”
Perdue is anti-choice and opposes same-sex marriage. Perdue has been quoted saying, “I believe that we should promote a culture that values life and protects the innocent, especially the unborn. Being pro-life and believing in the sanctity of marriage are my deeply held personal convictions. I will not waver in defending them if I have the privilege of serving you in the U.S Senate.” In September, Perdue was endorsed by the Susan B. Anthony List Candidate Fund, a nationwide anti-choice group.
Socially, Nunn walks an understated yet relatively liberal line. She believes that abortion should not be severely limited. She has drawn attention for touting her “Safe, Legal, and Rare” abortion policy, which is a relatively conservative stance for an Emily’s List-endorsed candidate. “On the issue of abortion, Nunn said that she believes abortions should be ‘safe, legal and rare’ and that women should be ultimately able to make this very difficult personal decision in concert with their doctor and their family.” She believes employers should be able to withhold contraceptive coverage from employees.
Perdue promises to pursue job creation policies that will “grow our economy, plain and simple.” During his tenure as CEO of Dollar General, Perdue created nearly 2,000 stores and 20,000 new jobs, although he has been criticized for his outsourcing of thousands of jobs in an attempt to cut manufacturing and labor costs.
Perdue has not yet taken a stance on raising the minimum wage or on the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would help close the pay gap between men and women. However, while Perdue was CEO, over 2,100 female employees launched complaints against Dollar General for practicing wage discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that female store managers at Dollar General “were discriminated against” and “generally were paid less than similarly situated male managers performing duties requiring equal skill, effort, and responsibility.” His critics fear this may lead to Perdue’s support of policies that are economically unfavorable to women, if voted into office.
Michelle Nunn describes herself as a “pro-business moderate and defense hawk who wants to cut deals and get things done.” Nunn is CEO and President of Points of Light, which is the largest organization in the country committed to volunteer service. Under her tenure last year, Points of Light facilitated 260,000 projects that delivered 30 million hours of labor, amounting to $635 million.
Nunn says she supports raising the minimum wage, and that she wants to lower the corporate tax rate and eliminate tax breaks for companies that close factories and ship jobs overseas. She has been a proponent of equal pay legislation, and her campaign website reads, “People should get paid for the work the do – not who they are. Equal pay is respect for hard work, and every minute we let go by without it hurts Georgia families.”
Read the rest of this series, to be published over the course of Thursday, October 30 and Friday, October 31, here.
Andrea Flynn is a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. Follow her on Twitter @dreaflynn.
Kameel Mir is a fourth year student of international affairs, English, and Arabic, writer, campus feminist, and policy researcher at the University of Georgia.
Kathleen Wilson is an advocate for gender equality, and a student at the University of Georgia, where she studies Economics and International Affairs.