Equal Pay Day
The issue of equal pay for women was highlighted when President John Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963. However, since the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, the wage gap between men and women has been closing at a slow rate. In 1963, women who worked full-time, year-round made 59 cents on average for every dollar men earned. In 2005, women earned 77 cents to the dollar. That means that the wage gap has narrowed by less than half a cent per year. The earnings for African-American women are 68 percent of men's earnings; the earnings of Hispanic women are 57 percent of men's earnings; and the earnings of Asian-American women are 88 percent of men's earnings.
Equal pay is not simply a women's issue, but a family issue. The wage gap hurts everyone -- husbands, wives, children, and parents -- because it lowers family incomes that pay for essentials: groceries, doctors' visits, child care. Furthermore, 41 percent of women are their families' sole source of income.
On March 6, Rep. Rosa DeLauro reintroduced the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 1338) for the 110th Congress. The bill would strengthen the Equal Pay Act to provide more effective remedies to women who are not being paid equal wages for doing equal work. Rep. DeLauro has introduced this bill over the last several Congresses, but Republican Leaders consistently blocked it. Specifically, the bill will:
Require the Department of Labor to enhance outreach and training efforts to work with employers to eliminate pay disparities;
Prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information with their co-workers;
Allow women to sue for punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages now available under the Equal Pay Act;
Require the Department of Labor to continue collecting and disseminating information about women workers; and
Create a new grant program to help strengthen the negotiation skills of girls and women.
As Speaker Pelosi said today, "Economic equity and self-sufficiency are essential to achieving the American dream. It is outrageous that women begin the quest to achieve that dream already at a deficit."
UPDATE: This morning, the Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on the Paycheck Fairness Act entitled, "Strengthening the Middle Class: Ensuring Equal Pay for Women." Watch the archived webcast>>
UPDATE: Congresswoman Lois Capps (D-CA), Chair of the Democratic Women Working Group, and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Vice-Chair of the Democratic Women Working Group, released the following statement regarding Equal Pay Day:
Today nearly forty-four years after President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law, gender pay disparities still exist in astonishing numbers, forcing American women to work longer just to earn the same amount of money as their male colleagues. Back in 1963 when the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, American women who worked full-time, year-round earned 59 cents on average for every dollar earned by men. By 2005 women were earning 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. While a half a cent per year wage increase is progress, we think America can do better for its working women and the families that depend on them.
To address this persistent pay gap we are strongly encouraging all of our colleagues to join us in support of the H.R. 1338, the Paycheck Fairness Act. This legislation would strengthen the Equal Pay Act to provide better solutions for women who are still not being paid equal wages for doing equal work. It would also create incentives for employers that work to eliminate pay disparities and allow the Department of Labor to enhance its outreach and training efforts to work with employers to eliminate the pay gap.
The common sense measures in the Paycheck Fairness Act will go a long way toward eliminating the gender pay gap that persists in our country and we hope that this bill moves quickly through the legislative process. After all, supporting equal pay for equal work is not just a woman's issue. Ultimately it's a fairness issue. Women who work hard everyday should receive the same compensation as their male counterparts. We hope that it won't take another forty-four years to close this gap. Working women and their families deserve better for the work that they do for our country.