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Dean Obeidallah

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Do Women Really Deserve to Be Paid the Same As Men?

Posted: 06/06/2012 7:01 pm

What do you think the pay would be for two people working in the same workplace, doing the same job for the same length of time? If your answer was "the same," odds are you would be wrong if one of those two employees was a woman.

Women in America are in general paid less than men. That is a fact. And not just a few cents less, but women on average earn only 77 cents for every dollar a man is paid for the equivalent job. Think about this for a moment: Women will be paid almost 25-percent less than their male co-worker doing the identical job, not because one is better at the job but simply because one is a woman.

It's even worse for women of color. African-American women only earn approximately 62 cents, and Latinas only 53 cents, for each dollar earned by a white male co-worker.

That's the bad news. Here's the worse news: The U.S. Senate considered legislation that could have finally remedy this injustice, but Republicans in the Senate blocked the vote on this proposed legislation.

Here's my simple question: How can anyone be opposed to ending income discrimination based on gender? Do Republican Senators actually believe that America's working mothers, wives, and daughters are inherently less valuable than men? When the Republican Senators were raising their daughters, did they tell them that they should dream big but that because of their gender, they don't deserve to be paid the same as a man?

Senate Republicans opposed this proposed law for the simple reason that they stand with big business over the average American women. Taking their lead from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other big-business groups, they complained that this proposed law would have created additional government regulations. Indeed, the Chamber of Commerce states that they "vigorously oppose" the law while claiming that they have "no tolerance for discrimination." This only makes sense in the bizzaro world; how can you oppose discrimination and then oppose a law that would eliminate that very thing?!

The legislation at issue was entitled the Paycheck Fairness Act and was introduced by Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski. The proposed law simply sought to update the original 1963 Equal Pay Act, which first addressed this issue. While the gender pay gap has closed a bit since then, this law would have closed loopholes to further reduce, and hopefully eliminate, unfair pay practices.

Had it been enacted, the law would have provided, among other things, increased penalties against employers for violations, including providing a statutory right for women to seek punitive damages. It also would have clarified the acceptable defenses for employers and prohibited employers from retaliating against employees who revealed their income level.

President Obama was vocally in favor of this law. So what about the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney? This bastion of "leadership" took no position on this legislation. Instead, he ducked the issue the best he could. This truly speaks volumes about the man who says he is the best candidate to be leader of the free world but refuses to stand up for the women of America.

I propose that every senator who opposed this legislation be paid only 77 cents for each dollar paid to their Congressional counterparts who supported the law. I know that this reduction in pay will not have a real impact on their lives, given that the estimated median net worth of a U.S. senator is $2.56 million, but it could be a teaching moment. Perhaps if these senators understood the feeling of frustration and powerlessness caused by discrimination, they would fight to eliminate it.

The Republicans in the Senate -- and Mitt Romney -- need to make it clear that they unequivocally oppose income discrimination based on gender and make clear whether they stand with big business or our nation's women.

 

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