Today marks “Equal Pay Day,” the day when women’s pay finally catches up to men’s pay from last year. You’ll have to forgive me for not cheering too loudly.
Each year Equal Pay Day highlights how far we still have to go in the fight for pay equity, and it’s striking how little headway has been made on closing the gap in recent years, with progress all but stagnating in the past decade. Across the board, women continue to be paid less than their male counterparts — a fact that takes on new significance in an election year where the views of the Republican presidential candidates on the gender pay gap range from dismissive to downright hostile.
But the numbers speak for themselves: according to the latest data, women earn on average 79 cents for every dollar that men earn. When you consider a full lifetime of work, the scope of inequality becomes far more dramatic. A new report from the National Women’s Law Center on the “lifetime wage gap“ shows that across 40 years of working, based on the current figures, women lose more than $430,000. When you break down the numbers by race, it’s even more stark; African-American women lose over $877,000, and Latinas more than a million dollars. When women are making hundreds of thousands of dollars less than men over a lifetime, it affects not only women’s financial stability while working and during retirement, but also the financial stability of our families.
Not to mention that it’s spectacularly unfair.
A gender pay gap exists for women in almost all occupations, from teachers to lawyers to cooks to mail carriers, and even in the entertainment field. Demos reports that for retail salespeople, the most common occupation in the country, the gender pay disparity is “particularly stark,” with women who are working full-time earning just 68 cents for each dollar earned by their male co-workers. For women struggling financially, the earnings lost simply for being a woman can mean the difference between barely making ends meet and being forced to choose between basic necessities like food and rent.
When you look at the presidential candidates’ stances on pay equity, it’s clear that the 2016 election will be a pivotal moment for whether progress is possible in the near future. Trump claims to “love equal pay,” but says he won’t support the legislative efforts necessary to make it happen. At an event last year, he told a woman asking about the pay gap that “you’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Sen. Ted Cruz voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act and derided it as a “political show vote.” A 2014 newspaper investigation found that in Gov. John Kasich’s office, women were paid nearly $10 less per hour than men, yet on the campaign trail, Kasich blamed not discrimination, but paid leave laws, for causing the wage gap!
Despite Republicans’ dismissal of the issue, equal pay for equal work remains a goal rather than a reality for women across the country. And until we close the gap, Equal Pay Day will remain an unhappy reminder of this continuing inequality.
Kathleen Turner is an advocate and Academy Award-nominated actress, and serves on the board of People For the American Way’s affiliate, PFAW Foundation.
As we wrote earlier today, Wisconsin State Sen. Glenn Grothman is running in the Republican primary this year against U.S. Rep. Tom Petri , which promises to bring extremism in the GOP primaries to a whole new level.
In our round-up of Grothman’s extremism we mentioned a speech he gave to a 2010 Tea Party rally, in which he claimed that “gals” are unfairly getting promoted ahead of men when really “in the long run, a lot of women like to stay at home and have their husbands be the primary breadwinner.”
He also blamed the downfall of America on single mothers on public benefits, even though he claims to have met many single moms while protesting outside abortion clinics: “Now, I know a lot of gals who are having kids out of wedlock, and I love them. I’ve been outside abortion clinics, and I’ve encouraged them.”
“Our country is not going to survive if we continue this war on men,” he concludes.
Although Grothman’s speech has been reported on a number of Wisconsin blogs, we believe it deserves a wider audience. Here’s a slightly shortened version of the legendary speech, via Blogging Blue.
Also in the speech, Grothman claimed that the government is forcing businesses to hire women and people of color and thereby attempting to “divide Americans by race.”
“In addition to the unfairness, the reason that will destroy the country is we are telling people they are not Americans,” he said. “And particularly we are telling our new immigrants, when you come here, if you’re from the Philippines, if you’re from Costa Rica, if you’re from Nigeria, if you’re from Pakistan, you should walk around with a chip on your shoulder and ask your government, ‘What are you going to give me, because I’m from the Phillipines?’ and ‘What are you going to give me because I’m from Pakistan?’ and ‘What are you going to give me because I’m from Mexico?’”
Today, the Senate GOP blocked a cloture vote on the motion to proceed to the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would help end pay discrimination and help working women close the wage gap in the United States. On average, women in the United States earn only 77 cents to the dollar compared to their male counterparts. The Paycheck Fairness Act would help eliminate the pay gap by providing the tools necessary to help women identify and address pay discrimination in their workplace and in the courts.
Marge Baker, Executive Vice President at People For the American Way, issued the following statement:
“Senate Republicans have once again brought the War on Women to our wallets. Pay discrimination is a real problem that hurts working women and their families, harms the economy and undermines the principle of equality under the law. The Senators blocking this bill are putting the interests of corporate special interests above the needs of American women. Instead of standing up for basic fairness, they have chosen to play politics with the lives of women and their families.”
Last month, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett offered a solution for women who were going to be forced by the government to undergo a completely unnecessary ultrasound against their wills: "You can't make anybody watch, okay? Because you just have to close your eyes." The governor's suggestion would be almost comical, if it weren't for the tragic fact that forcing women to watch was the whole point of the legislation Corbett supported.
But it seems that Corbett's suggestion doesn't just apply to women seeking abortions in the Keystone state. It is, in essence, what the GOP is telling to every woman turned off by the party's attacks on reproductive rights, equal pay and domestic violence protections: "You just have to close your eyes."
Mitt Romney's campaign is banking on the fact that voters of both genders are concerned about the economy in these uncertain times. Polls show that they're right. But just because you're concerned with the economy doesn't mean you ignore it when a group of people are systematically taking away your rights for their own short-term political gain.
Sadly, this is the new normal. The Tea Party's success has been based on this "just close your eyes" formula. Swept into power on a wave of economic dissatisfaction, Tea Party legislators in Washington and the states asked the country to "close its eyes" as it did everything but fix the economy. "Pay no attention while we roll back decades of progress everything else you care about. Just close your eyes while we bash immigrants, cut essential services, make it very hard to vote, and take away collective bargaining rights". Many minorities have been affected, particularly in the last two years, but arguably and amazingly, no group has been under attack more than the American majority--women.
A new report from People For the American Way investigates the new landscape that the Tea Party is creating for American women. Mississippi is set to become the only state in the country without a legal abortion clinic. Texas is on the path to denying reproductive health care to 130,000 low-income women. Wisconsin repealed its enforcement mechanism for equal pay lawsuits. Senate Republicans are fighting to stop the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Following an all-male panel speaking on women's health, a woman who dares speak in front of Congress about the importance of affordable contraception is called a "slut."
Even with closed eyes, these things are very hard to miss. The Romney campaign has attempted to distract voters from this train wreck of anti-woman policies by claiming that a second Obama administration will hurt women economically. Last week, they hammered hard on the claim that women have accounted for 92 percent of job losses under President Obama- a mangled statistic that ignores, among other factors, that many of those losses were the result of Republican-led layoffs of teachers and other government employees. Then they decided to accuse Democrats of waging a "War on Moms" - forgetting, perhaps, the candidate's history of aggressively pushing low-income women to work outside of the home when their children are very young.
Women haven't bought it. In polls, Romney still trails Obama among women voters by double digits. And in an under-reported fact, among women ages 18 to 29, he's losing by an astounding 45 points. You don't need a political science degree that know that that spells disaster.
Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans seem to think they can get away with almost anything because, in the end, their Election Day hopes will be saved by a bad economy. The problem is, the people they attack on a regular basis - women, gays, Latinos, Muslims, you name it -know the Tea Party's record on the economy and its history of cynical, culture-war attacks that deeply affect the lives of real people. We have our eyes wide open.
President Barack Obama today signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, legislation that repairs the damage done by the Supreme Court's decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear. People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert was present at the signing, and issued the following statement:
Earlier today, Senator John McCain told voters assembled at a Wisconsin town hall meeting that he is a committed supporter of equal pay: "We have not done enough. And I’m committed to making sure that there’s equal pay for equal work. That there is equal opportunity in every aspect of our society. And that is my record and you can count on it."
At an event today in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Senator Barack Obama spoke about his support of the Fair Pay Restoration Act, which would reverse the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear. That decision severely curtailed the right of women and other employees who are victimized by unlawful wage discrimination to obtain back pay. Senator Obama criticized Senator John McCain’s refusal to support the same legislation.
People For the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert issued the following statement:
In response to the Supreme Court's rulings in CBOCS West Inc. v. Humphries and Gomez-Perez v. Potter, People For the American Way Foundation president Kathryn Kolbert issued the following statement: