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GOP Lawmaker Says Sick Leave, Equal Pay Bills Make Women 'Look Like Whiners'

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A package of bills in Minnesota that would enhance women's economic security by raising the minimum wage, providing paid family and sick leave and addressing the gender pay gap makes women "look like whiners," a state GOP lawmaker said last week.

"We heard several bills last week about women's issues and I kept thinking to myself, these bills are putting us backwards in time," State Rep. Andrea Kieffer (R) told colleagues at a Wednesday hearing on one of the measures. "We are losing the respect that we so dearly want in the workplace by bringing up all these special bills for women and almost making us look like whiners."

The progressive group Alliance for a Better Minnesota has posted the audio recording of Keiffer's remarks and circulated a petition asking voters to denounce it.

The Minnesota Women's Economic Security Act is an omnibus bill intended to address the barriers to economic progress that Minnesota women face. Among other measures aimed at helping working women, the legislation would raise the minimum wage to $9.50 and protect women from discrimination in the workplace and unfair pay. Additionally, it would expand access to affordable childcare and paid sick and family leave, enhance protections for victims of domestic and sexual violence and encourage women entrepreneur’s business development in traditionally male-dominated industries.

The package of bills, introduced by Rep. Carly Melin (D), is currently moving through committees in Minnesota's Democrat-controlled House and Senate. One of the measures, the minimum wage bill, passed on a party-line vote last year in both chambers and is currently in conference committee. Supporters of the package are expecting it to pass, despite Republican opposition.

Minnesota House Majority Leader Erin Murphy (D) responded to Kieffer's comments about women looking like "whiners" in an email to HuffPost.

“In Minnesota, women earn 80 cents on the dollar to their male counterparts," she said. "That is not whining. That is a reality that we should not accept.

"Too often women are branded as 'whiners' when they challenge unfairness in our laws and society. I would bet a lot people said Susan B. Anthony was a whiner when she fought for the right to vote. The reality is that women in Minnesota and throughout our country face unique economic barriers and everyone deserves a fair chance at success."

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