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The Horror, The Horror!: GOP, Business Alarmed by Fair Pay Bills

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Congress is expected to vote this week on critical legislation remedying pay inequity for women. But, as I point in a new In These Times column, what's especially striking is the horrified response of the GOP and business groups to these common-sense measures -- a forerunner of the upcoming fight over the Employee Free Choice Act to create a level playing field for organizing. Some excerpts:

Why have pro-business leaders, such as the National Association of Manufacturers, denounced these bills as "another open invitation to sue business owners and operators on thin grounds" One important bill, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act , would overturn a 2007 Supreme Court decision that barred workers from filing anti-discrimination lawsuits because they waited too long to sue. (You can hear Lilly Ledbetter tell her story here.) A second measure, the Paycheck Fairness Act, aims to strengthen labor laws and legal remedies to stop the discrepancy in womens' pay: they average only 78 cents for every dollar men make...

In fact, The Center for American Progress reports in a new study:

A full-time female worker loses a median of $434,000 in wages over a 40-year period as a direct result of the gender pay gap, also known as the "career wage gap." Making up that gap, or the 22 percent difference in annual pay, could certainly help with the economic recovery as well.

Republicans resent that they're being pressured to vote so quickly on these measure. The Hill reports:

"Business groups are not pleased with the early votes on labor bills, and complain they were not subject to hearings and markups in this Congress. They also say the two scheduled votes are an indication of the rough year they could have with the Democratic House.

"It was "ominous" how quickly the House leadership was moving on the legislation, said Randy Johnson, vice president for labor policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who also complained about the lack of debate."

Of course these same issues were fully aired in hearings in the last Congress, where Ledbetter testified, and the Paycheck Fairness Act was first introduced eleven years ago. But, hey, who's counting?

Yet while anti-labor groups and Republican leaders are sharpening their attack lines, or lies, about these measures and the upcoming Employee Free Choice Act, some businessmen are seeing the value to the broader economy of strengthening workers' rights to unionize.

The AFL-CIO NOW blog quotes an op-ed piece by Joe Diecedue, a state agent for American Income Life Insurance, who wrote a strong piece explaining why we need the Employee Free Choice Act:

"When a worker does well, business does well. Business can sell and retain customers who can afford to pay. No one wins when everyone struggles."

The union movement and progressives will be using such common-sense arguments to rally support for early passage of the majority sign-up legislation. The two pay equity bills being considered this week by the House of Representatives are a good sign that pro-worker legislation will get a fair hearing in this new Congress.

UPDATE: Check activist Page Gardner's HuffPost column on how and why to support passage of these bills.