Maryland employers would be banned from asking questions about a person’s salary history, prohibited from certain confidentiality agreements with alleged sexual predators and required to grant workers up to 12 weeks of paid family leave, according to several policy proposals Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III would institute if elected governor.
The policy position, known as the Equity for Women Initiative, is the first plan Baker has introduced in his gubernatorial bid.
“I know some of the women that have come forward bravely about the culture in Annapolis,” Baker said in statement issued Friday. “What we have to do as a government is make sure that we understand this and we change it.”
He said some of the recommendations incorporate the #MeToo movement, which was originally established by activist Tarana Burke to help young girls of color heal from sexual abuse and harassment.
Baker’s plan consists of three categories: closing the wage gap, fostering women entrepreneurs and ensuring safety at work, school and home.
According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, women in Maryland earn 84 cents for every dollar a man receives for full-time employment. Black women are paid 69 cents for every dollar just in front of Latino women who get 47 cents per every dollar.
To close those gaps, Baker would direct an audit of salaries for state agencies and service bid contractors larger than $100,000.
The plan would also institute 12 weeks of paid family leave for families with a newborn baby or adopted child and care for an immediate family member who’s sick.
To assist women-owned businesses, Baker would implement a state Economic Development Incentive Fund similar to the county’s EDI program issuing grants and loans to local businesses.
As a way to keep women safe at home, Baker would seek engineers and code writers to design technology to create an early warning system for domestic violence victims and possibly police to receive notification of an offender’s violation of a court-ordered boundary. It doesn’t specify the costs, how to pay for it or how it would be implemented.
His proposal is supported by Emelda Johnson Kennerly, a former housing official in Prince George’s.
“Because I know firsthand of [Baker’s] caring and competence, I am not surprised that his ‘Equity for Women Initiative’ would contain groundbreaking strategies to address some longstanding challenges affecting and protecting women,” Johnson Kennerly, who now works with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, said in a statement. “His understanding and foresight are to be applauded.”
Baker seeks the Democratic nomination among a crowded field in the June 26 primary to challenge Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
The same day Baker released his plan, former NAACP President Ben Jealous, who is also vying for the Democratic nomination, received an endorsement from popular California Rep. Kamala Harris. Jealous has picked up endorsements from Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
But Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen already gave Baker his endorsement, as did state’s Attorney General Brian Frosh.
Jealous said that though he agrees with the fundamental point of Baker’s plan, the county executive must be held accountable for the actions of his staff, notably senior adviser Calvin Hawkins, who was charged nearly 10 years ago with sexual assault and harassment.
“As a civil rights leader and community organizer, I’ve spent my life fighting for equality and I’ll continue to do so as governor in order to level the playing field for women,” Jealous said in an issued statement. “But to achieve these needed reforms, a governor needs credibility. Rushern Baker lacks that credibility as long as he is employing a known sexual predator as a senior adviser. If he wants to be taken seriously on the issue of equality for women in the workplace, he needs to clean up his own and fire Calvin Hawkins.”
Baker’s other challengers are Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz; state Sen. Richard Madaleno Jr. of Montgomery County; tech entrepreneur Alec Ross; Krish Vignarajah, a former policy director for first lady Michelle Obama; Baltimore attorney Jim Shea; educator Ralph Jaffe and James Jones of Baltimore City.