On June 10, 1963, at a time when women in our country made 59 cents for every dollar a man made, the United States Congress passed the Equal Pay Act. As we approach the 49th anniversary of that landmark legislation, we see that the pay gap is just as real today as it was then. Women across our country make just 77 cents for every dollar that a man makes with the same education doing the same job. That's twenty-three percent less. But do women get a twenty-three percent discount at the grocery store? No. Do we get twenty-three percent off at the doctor's office? No.
That's why I reintroduced the Paycheck Fairness Act, and why it's vitally important that the United States Senate pass it starting with tomorrow's cloture vote. We want to ensure that we close the loopholes that have kept the Pay Equity Act from achieving its promise of equal pay.
In 2009, we fought to keep the courthouse doors open with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, changing the statute of limitations and enabling employees to take legal action in cases of discriminatory pay. It was an important down-payment on ending the pay gap. The Paycheck Fairness Act will close loopholes that allow pay discrimination to happen in the first place. With the Paycheck Fairness Act, employers will no longer be able to retaliate against workers for sharing information about wages. No longer will women be able to seek only back pay. Under this bill, they can also seek punitive damages for pay discrimination. No longer will employers be able to use almost any reason and make up any excuse for unjust pay practices. No longer will women be on their own fighting discrimination.
Why does it matter? The wage gap has consequences that last a lifetime. Think of a college graduate who starts working at 22 and works until they are 62. By the time they retire, there will be a $434,000 income gap. This is about supporting women, men and their families. The wage gap makes it harder for working moms to provide for their families, makes it more difficult to own a home and means there will be less in Social Security and retirement savings. This is the true cost of being a woman.
I believe that in this country, if you work hard and play by the rules, you'll get ahead. In the 49 years since Congress passed legislation calling for equal pay for equal work, women have made an 18 cent gain. That's not rewarding hard work and playing by the rules.
Women can't wait another 49 years. American women are mad as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore. It's time to close the loopholes, level the playing field and end the outrageous cost of being a woman. It's time to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and once and for all have equal pay for equal work.
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