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House Passes the Paycheck Fairness Act

July 31, 2008

The House has just passed the Paycheck Fairness Act, H.R. 1338, by a vote of 247-178. Although the wage gap between men and women has narrowed since the passage of the landmark Equal Pay Act in 1963, gender-based wage discrimination remains a problem for women in the U.S. workforce. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women only make 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. The Institute of Women's Policy Research found that this wage disparity will cost women anywhere from $400,000 to $2 million over a lifetime in lost wages. Furthermore, loopholes created by courts and weak sanctions in the law have allowed many employers to avoid liability for engaging in gender-based pay discrimination. The Paycheck Fairness Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), will strengthen the Equal Pay Act and close the loopholes that have allowed employers to avoid responsibility for discriminatory pay.

Learn more in our current legislation section >>

Read Speaker Pelosi’s statement: “Tonight, Congress Sent a Message to Women Across the Country: 'Your Work is Valued'” >>

Chairman George Miller and Rep Rob Andrews (NJ-01) denounce a Republican motion to recommit:

Chairman Miller: “I hope Ms. Lilly Ledbetter is watching you guys so she can understand what her problem was…”
[Crosstalk]
Rep. Andrews: “The purpose of this amendment is to kill this bill. It says to the woman who makes 77 cents to drive a truck when a man makes $1, wait your turn… If you want our sisters and our mothers and our daughters to wait their turn, vote for this motion to recommit. But if you believe as we do the time is now, vote down this motion to recommit, vote for this bill and vote for justice for the working women in this country.”

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Chairman George Miller, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), Rep. Louise Slaughter (NY-28) and Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-09) spoke in favor of the bill.

Leader Hoyer: “Is there a woman on this Floor that thinks they ought to be paid less than the men that they do exactly the same kind of work? And I would suggest the answer to that is no. Whether they’re staffers or Members. I hope there’s not a female page who watches these proceedings that believes that they are less valuable than the male pages that serve this House. They are equally valued, irrespective of gender. The value of work lies in a job well done, not in the gender of the worker. But within my lifetime it was a radical notion for decades…”
Chairman Miller: “It’s rather interesting that the Secretary of Labor sent us a letter and in her random audits of businesses working with government contractors she found systematic discrimination and she collected $51 million, and this is a record year, and it’s the third record year in a row because of systematic discrimination… if you can’t enforce your rights, then you suffer the discrimination… Think what it is nationwide and the people that don’t get a random audit, they don’t get the Secretary of Labor, they don’t get the Department of Labor, what they get is discrimination in their pay.”
Rep. DeLauro: “With this resolution, we take up an effort that began more than 150 years ago when visionary women came together to stand up for women’s rights, to better the status of women in our society. In this tradition, more than 11 years ago, I first introduced the legislation that we consider this morning, the Paycheck Fairness Act, and I cannot help but think of all the Aprils we have commemorated Equal Pay Day without legislative movement. But today the legislative inertia we have experienced for years have come to an end. The wage gap is real… Over the course of her lifetime, a female high school graduate will make $700,000 less than the young man she graduates with. Compared to a man, a female college graduate stands to lose up to $2 million in the course of her career. This is true across the board.”
Rep. Slaughter: “From securing the women’s right to vote in 1920, to serving our country in World War II, American women have come a long way. And in this Congress alone we have much to celebrate. Speaker Pelosi is the first woman to lead this esteemed body, and Senator Clinton made 18 million cracks in the nation’s highest glass ceiling as the first woman to run a formidable presidential campaign. Yet, as we celebrate these important milestones and look at what we have achieved since 1848, we know full well that our journey towards gender equality is not complete…”
Rep. Lee: “The wage gap is most severe for women of color. It’s absolutely inexcuseable that women, and especially minority women earn a fraction of what men earn from the same job. African-American women earn just 63 cents on the dollar and latinas earn far worse at 57 cents… The wide disparity begins at the start of a woman’s work life and grows wider as women age. In the long-term, combined with the decrease in pension income and social security benefits, which is what happens, many women are at risk of falling into poverty as they get older because this disparity began when they first started working. H.R. 1338 takes immediate steps to close the wage gap for all women by amending and strengthening the Equal Pay Act…”