AUGUSTA – Tuesday was recognized as “Equal Pay Day,” with Gov. John Baldacci and other state leaders calling attention to the fact that women are paid less in Maine than men.

Nationally, women earn 80 cents for every $1 men earn, and in Maine women earn 77 cents for every $1 men earn, according to labor studies.

Some of that difference is due to women’s taking jobs that allow them to attend to family members, but leaders said not all jobs pay men and women the same even when the conditions are the same.

Women’s being paid less contributes to poverty in Maine and hurts the state overall, said Sarah Standiford of the Maine Women’s Lobby.

Maine has an “equal pay” law, but Maine Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman said it’s not clear whether the law’s working.

“We have a way to go. I’m not sure people are aware the law exists, which is why a day like today is so important,” Fortman said.

The Department of Labor has posted on its Web site highlights of the law and how it applies to workers and companies. The department also has developed posters highlighting the law, available upon request, she said.

Although the law was passed in 1965, until five years ago there were no rules that offered specifics on what it meant or how it should be followed, Fortman said. “It is by heightening awareness that we will move the issue forward,” she said.

– Bonnie Washuk

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