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% 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 US Senate is considering legislation that could finally remedy this injustice. You might be thinking: Why is this news worse news? It's because the Republicans in the US Senate vowed to prevent a 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 because of their gender, they don’t deserve to be paid the same as a man?
Senate Republicans oppose this proposed law for the simple reason that they stand with big business over the average American women. Taking their lead from the US Chamber of Commerce and other big business groups, they complain that this proposed law would create additional government regulations. Indeed, the Chamber of Commerce states that they “vigorously oppose” the law while claiming 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 is entitled the “Paycheck Fairness Act” and was introduced by Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski. The proposed law simply seeks 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 close loopholes to further reduce -and hopefully eliminate-unfair pay practices.
If enacted, the law would provide, among other things, increased penalties against employers for violations including providing a statutory right for women to seek punitive damages, it would clarify the acceptable defenses for employers, and prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who reveal their income level.
President Obama has been vocally in favor of this law. So what about the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney? This bastion of “leadership” has not taken a position on this legislation. Instead, he’s ducking the issue the best he can. This truly speaks volumes about the man who says he is the best candidate to be leader of the free world, yet refuses to stand up for the women of America. I have seen single cell amoebas with more of a backbone than Mitt Romney.
I propose that every Senator who opposes this legislation be paid only 77 cents for each dollar paid to their Congressional counterparts who support the law. I know that this reduction in pay will not have a real impact on their lives since 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. This is their moment to decide if they will stand with big business or our nation’s women.