Hillary Clinton drew applause from S.C. Democratic women Wednesday, pledging to fight for equal pay for them and for higher wages, adding she will “make the words ‘middle class’ mean something again.”
“Too many women still earn less than men on the job. Women of color often make even less,” Clinton said to Democratic women attending the 2015 Day in Blue in Columbia Wednesday.
“Then, there's the so-called motherhood penalty with many women taking a pay cut when they have children. ... For many families, we’re talking about thousands of dollars (lost in wages) a year.”
While critics say Clinton has trouble connecting with voters, she had the Columbia crowd laughing and applauding throughout her 25-minute speech, delivered on a one-day stop in the Palmetto State, before the Democrat heads to Georgia, Florida and Texas.
"Awesome” was Bernice Scott's reaction to Clinton's speech. Clinton "was warm" and spoke as though "talking directly to me," said Scott, a former Richland County Council member from Hopkins.
Scott said Clinton's message about equal pay for women resonated with her, a single parent. "I had to raise my kids. I had to build my house. I had to buy insurance. I had to do all those things myself. There was not a male there. So why should I make less?"
The former first lady, former U.S. senator and former secretary of state also told a story about the “middle class (she) grew up in.”
Clinton said her father ran a small business, printing fabric for drapes. She talked about how she, her mother and brothers would help him – pouring the ink on silk screens and printing the fabric using a squeegee.
Clinton blamed Republicans for standing in the way of equal pay for women, saying she would push Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, “which gives women the legal tools to fight discrimination at work.”
If elected, Clinton promised she would push for higher wages for low-income earners and wage transparency, requiring new jobs and promotions to be posted with salary ranges and large companies to report whether they are paying men and women fairly.
“You can’t stand up for equal pay if you don’t know whether you’re paid equally,” she said.
Touting an “equal pay” agenda is a smart campaign move for Clinton, reminding women and African-American voters – groups that propelled then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama to his 2008 victory over Clinton in the S.C. primary – that she is an advocate for them on those issues, said Scott Huffmon, a Winthrop political scientist.
But Republicans likely will argue that equal pay and wage-transparency laws would hurt businesses, he said.
While Clinton mingled with the crowd after her speech Wednesday, she slipped out a side door, guarded by police and U.S. Secret Service agents, without taking any questions from the media – continuing what has been few interactions with the press.
Earlier Wednesday, Clinton met with six minority female business owners at Kiki’s Chicken and Waffles in Northeast Richland, and spoke privately with S.C. House and Senate Democrats.
In an unannounced stop, Clinton also stopped by the Main Street Bakery and Gift Shop, where she met the owners and bought some cupcakes, her campaign said in an email.
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GOP attacks Clinton on fair pay
The Republican National Committee, in a news release Wednesday, accused Hillary Clinton of paying men in her former U.S. Senate office more than women – a claim she and a fact-checking website said is untrue.
The GOP committee cited as its source a February article in the Washington Free Beacon, a conservative political news website operated by a GOP strategist. In a May 21 article, Politifact said the Free Beacon’s claim was “mostly false,” adding it used incomplete data that excluded some staffers.
The fact-checking site said the Free Beacon article, and Clinton’s rebuttal saying men and women were paid equally, only looked at median earnings instead of comparing the wages of men and women doing the same job – “the key issue in claims about the wage gap.”