On Equal Pay Day, Let's Stand Up for Working Women, Families and Our Economy

04/14/2015 11:29 am ET | Updated Jun 14, 2015

This Equal Pay Day it is time to take decisive action to close the wage gap that still exists between women and men. Why is Equal Pay Day marked every April? Because currently a woman has to work a year and three months into the next year just to earn what a man earns in one year.

Making sure women get equal pay for equal work remains one of my top priorities. President Obama and Democrats in Congress share this priority, and we will keep fighting to achieve it. Every week I speak with women and families in my district and from across the country who are struggling to make ends meet. I also encounter women who are striving to get ahead in their careers but know they are paid less than their male counterparts for no reason other than their gender.

Women make 78 cents for every dollar paid to men. For women of color it is even worse. African-American women are paid 64 cents, and Latinas just 54 cents, for every dollar paid to men. Closing this gap would cut poverty in half for families with a working woman, according to a recent study by the Institute for Women's Policy Research. If we keep up the status quo, in my home state of Illinois, it will take women until 2065 -- 50 years from now -- to close the pay gap. We must fix this.

Instituting equal pay is especially important because families in our country increasingly rely on women's wages to make ends meet. When women bring home less money each day, it means they have less for the everyday needs of their families -- groceries, rent, child care, and doctors' visits.

Unequal pay exists across most job sectors of our economy, even in nursing. According to analysis published in the Journal of American Medical Association, female nurses make an average of $5,100 less than their male counterparts, and this gap hasn't narrowed in more than 25 years. We cannot let another year go by without fixing this problem. There are at least two solutions.

First, we must pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. I am one of 188 Democrats who are originals co-sponsors of this legislation. The Paycheck Fairness Act is a crucial part of When Women Succeed, America Succeeds: An Economic Agenda for Women and Families. It will provide effective remedies to women who are not being paid equal wages for doing equal work.

Second, whenever possible, I believe women should join unions in their workplace. Union representation especially benefits women. I have never seen a union contract that pays women 78 cents for every dollar it pays men.

We should not wait any longer to ensure that women get the pay they deserve. I will keep fighting for this until we achieve equality. I am very thankful for all those who are already advocating for equal pay and I hope others will join me in this fight.


Women of all backgrounds deserve equal pay for equal work.