Republican senators again filibustered the Paycheck Fairness Act yesterday, an act that would provide women with additional tools to identify and fight back against pay discrimination. This is the fourth time that Republicans have blocked this bill, despite the persistence of unequal pay for women and men doing the same work.
It’s been over 50 years since the signing of the Equal Pay Act, yet, this unconscionable practice of paying women employees less than men for doing the same job continues to this day.
In Congress, though, Republicans derided the measure as a “show vote” staged by Democrats in an election year. Sen. Mitch McConnell even claimed this bill “threatens to hurt the very people that it claims to help.” But for women working full-time and earning an average of 77 cents for every dollar men earn, this bill would give them the tools to fight back against the pay discrimination that keeps them earning less.
Women are increasingly serving as the primary breadwinners for their households, which means the discrepancy in pay harms not only women’s lives, but also their families. The Paycheck Fairness Act is the best way to start fixing that injustice. Republican senators should stop the unnecessary filibusters so that the Senate can pass this bill and move our country towards equal pay for equal work.
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Equal Pay Act. It should be a celebration. But it should also be a wake-up call about how far our country still has to go toward fair pay.
When President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law, he called the practice of paying women employees less than men doing the same job “unconscionable.” The year was 1963, and Kennedy noted that women were making about 60 percent of men’s average wage.
What was unconscionable then at 60 cents on the dollars is unconscionable now at 77 cents on the dollar, with women of color facing an even greater pay gap. A recent study by the American Association of University Women found that this gap starts early:
“[I]n 2009—the most recent year for which data are available—women one year out of college who were working full time were paid, on average, just 82 percent of what their male peers were paid. After we control for hours, occupation, college major, employment sector, and other factors associated with pay, the pay gap shrinks but does not disappear. About one-third of the gap cannot be explained by any of the factors commonly understood to affect earnings…”
In order words, even after controlling for “choice” factors such as college major – men, for example, are more likely to major in lucrative fields like computer science – the pay gap remains. Women doing the same work as men are still, on average, being paid less.
This discrepancy runs counter to basic ideas of fairness, with implications for almost all other aspects of women’s lives, from long-term economic stability to health and wellness. While 77 cents on the dollar may sound small, over the lifetime women lose hundreds of thousands of dollars because of this gap. It is an injustice that harms not only women, but also their families. And with women increasingly serving as primary breadwinners, the implications for families are compounded. For all of these reasons, PFAW continues to advocate for the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would provide women with additional tools to identify and fight back against pay discrimination.
“Equal pay for equal work” has been a women’s rights rallying cry for decades, powerful in its simplicity and incontestable logic. But as a country, we are not there yet.
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.”