It's Time to Close the Wage Gap
On June 10, 1963, at a time when women in our country made 59 cents for every dollar a man made, the United States Congress passed the Equal Pay Act. As we approach the 49th anniversary of that landmark legislation, we see that the pay gap is just as real today as it was then. Women across our country make just 77 cents for every dollar that a man makes with the same education doing the same job. That’s twenty-three percent less. But do women get a twenty-three percent discount at the grocery store? No. Do we get twenty-three percent off at the doctor’s office? No.
That’s why I reintroduced the Paycheck Fairness Act. My Democratic colleagues and I wanted to ensure that we close the loopholes that have kept the Pay Equity Act from achieving its promise of equal pay.
But this week, Senate Republicans voted on a strict party line to filibuster the Paycheck Fairness Act. It was a sad day in the U.S. Senate, but it’s even sadder every payday when women continue to receive less in their paycheck than men do. And although we lost the vote this week, we are not going to give up the fight.
In 2009, we fought to keep the courthouse doors open with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, changing the statute of limitations and enabling employees to take legal action in cases of discriminatory pay. It was an important down-payment on ending the pay gap. The Paycheck Fairness Act would close loopholes that allow pay discrimination to happen in the first place. With the Paycheck Fairness Act, employers would no longer be able to retaliate against workers for sharing information about wages. No longer would women be able to seek only back pay. Under this bill, they can also seek punitive damages for pay discrimination. No longer would employers be able to use almost any reason and make up any excuse for unjust pay practices. No longer would women be on their own fighting discrimination.
Why does it matter? The wage gap has consequences that last a lifetime. Think of a college graduate who starts working at 22 and works until she is 62. By the time she retires, there will be a $434,000 income gap. This is about supporting women, men and their families. The wage gap makes it harder for working moms to provide for their families, makes it more difficult to own a home and means there will be less in Social Security and retirement savings. This is the true cost of being a woman.
I believe that in this country, if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll get ahead. In the 49 years since Congress passed legislation calling for equal pay for equal work, women have made an 18 cent gain. That’s not rewarding hard work and playing by the rules.
While John Adams and all the guys were in Philadelphia writing the U.S. Constitution, his wife Abigail wrote him a letter that said, ‘Do not forget the ladies or they will foment a revolution of their own.’ Well, they did forget the ladies. And the ladies did foment a revolution of their own. It was called the suffrage movement. It took 150 years for women to secure the right to vote.
And now they’ve forgotten the ladies again by not getting rid of the loopholes in the Equal Pay Act that are making it hard to end pay discrimination. American women can’t wait another 49 years. It’s time to close the loopholes and level the playing field.
So, I say to the women of America, let’s keep this fight going. Put on your lipstick, square your shoulders, suit up and let’s fight for this new American Revolution where women get equal pay for equal work. Let’s end wage discrimination in this century once and for all.
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