Today the Senate had a chance to stand up for the American value of an honest day's pay for an honest day's work by voting "yes" on the Paycheck Fairness Act. Despite widespread public support for this common-sense bill and a majority of the Senate in support, it fell short of the votes needed to defeat a filibuster.
I have been working to combat wage discrimination for many decades, and have seen first-hand the injustices caused by the loopholes in the nearly 50-year old Equal Pay Act. Since 1963, when the Equal Pay Act became law, the wage gap has narrowed by only 18 cents. American women who work full time, year-round are paid, on average, only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. Although the difference in pay between men and women has not changed much in the last half-century, what has changed is that women are fast becoming breadwinners in a majority of American families. Even when controlling for factors like time out of the workforce to care for children, years of work, hours worked and job tenure, women are still paid significantly less. That's why, now more than ever, we need the Paycheck Fairness Act.
The Paycheck Fairness Act would help combat wage discrimination by strengthening the Equal Pay Act in critical ways, including by providing incentives to employers to pay women fairly and by preventing employers from retaliating against women and men for discussing their pay with each other.
Paying women fairly is crucial to achieving economic security for women and families -- hardly a distraction from the pressing economic issues facing our nation, as opponents claim.
Paying women less hurts moms, dads and their children. In the toughest economic climate in recent history, working moms are trying to put dinner on the table for their families with one hand tied behind their backs. In these hard times, a median wage gap of $10,784 per year means families have less to spend on basic necessities.
Here's what closing that gap would mean for families this year:
• Four months' supply of groceries = $2,447
• Five months' child care = $2,958
• Three months' rent and utilities = $2,424
• Five months' health insurance premiums = $1,550
• Four months' student loan payments = $1,117
• Five tanks of gas = $287
Almost fifty years after the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, there ought to be universal agreement that paying women less -- simply because they are women -- is unacceptable. Equal pay for equal work is no longer up for debate, and making the equal pay laws truly work should not be up for debate either. Every woman in the country should expect -- and demand -- no less.