State Senator Jen Beck (R-11) from the floor of the senate this afternoon made a point to honor the late U.S. Rep. Millicent Fenwick of Bernardsville.
Slapped at by Democrats for opposing last year’s pay equity legislation, Beck pointedly noted that as a freshman assemblywoman prior to her service in congress, Ms. Fenwick’s first contribution to the legislature was to introduce a 1970 bill outlawing wage discrimination in the State of New Jersey.
Then-Governor Bill Cahil signed the bill.
“All women owe her a debt of gratitude for leading this civil rights fight,” said Beck, whose point from the start of last year’s pay equity debate was that New Jersey already has strong laws on the books.
“It’s fitting to honor her with all the great women leaders we’ve had in this state,’ the battleground Republican senator added. “As a result of her efforts, New Jersey now has one of the most rigorous, progressive and aggressive wage discrimination statutes in the nation.”
Fenwick was one of just two women serving in the New Jersey Legislature, both Republicans, when she entered the General Assembly in 1970. The first bill she sponsored, A-403 of the 1970-71 legislative session, outlawed gender-based wage discrimination by adding “sex” as a protected status to New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD). That bill quickly passed the Legislature and was signed into law by Governor William T. Cahill (R) on June 2, 1970 (P.L. 1970, c. 80).
Following that enactment of that legislation, an article published by The Record on June 3, 1970 noted that “women would have to be paid on jobs at same rate as men for comparable duties and experience.”
Interestingly, InsiderNJ dug up the following nugget regarding the state legislative actions of another assemblywoman turned congresswoman and equal pay champion. As a state legislator in 1952, Florence Dwyer introduced the Equal Pay for Equal Work bill, which criminalized “discrimination in the rate of wages on the basis of sex” and later became a model for federal legislation.
For Beck’s LD11 general election opponent, the resolution invoking Fenwick wasn’t adequate.
“Honoring trailblazers like Millicent Fenwick for their work fighting against wage discrimination does not excuse the fact that Senator Beck is consistently wrong on the issue of pay equity,” said Long Branch businessman Vin Gopal. “The Senator has repeatedly said she will not vote for legislation that would help correct the glaring pay discrepancy between men and women, choosing instead to side with Governor Christie and vote against these efforts. This is nothing less than a betrayal of those she was elected to represent, and choosing to instead honor a representative who showed courage in the face of resistance almost 50 years ago is a poor substitute for real leadership.
“As a small business owner with 16 employees, all of them women, I know the positive impact this legislation will have on people throughout the district and across the state, and I am calling on Senator Beck to put aside her natural tendencies to do the Governor’s bidding or whatever she thinks is politically expedient for her next election and to finally do the right thing and vote ‘Yes’ on this important bill,” he added.