Today, on Equal Pay Day, Congressman Joe Baca (D-Rialto) re-stated his belief that more must be done to close the wage gap that still exists between women and men..
"Forty-seven years have passed since President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law in 1963," commented Rep. Baca. "And yet, in too many cases, there is still not equal pay for equal work in this country."
In 1963, when the Equal Pay Act was signed, women who worked full-time, year-round made 59 cents on average for every dollar earned by men. In 2008, women earned 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. That is progress -- but it is slow progress. It means that the wage gap has narrowed by less than half a cent per year.
"Achieving equal pay for women is one of the top priorities of the 111th Congress," stated Rep. Baca. "In January 2009, Congress sent to the President's desk the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restored the right of women and other workers to legally challenge unfair pay in the workplace. It became the first major bill signed into law by President Obama, only a week after he was inaugurated as our new President."
The Lilly Ledbetter Act restores the right of women and other workers to challenge unfair pay in court. Specifically, it rectifies the May 2007 Ledbetter v Goodyear Supreme Court decision that overturned precedent and made it much more difficult for workers to pursue pay discrimination claims. The bill simply restores the longstanding interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and other discrimination statutes, thereby protecting women and other workers.
"The enactment of the Lilly Ledbetter Act was a major victory for America's women," added Rep. Baca. "However, the Senate must also pass and send to the President's desk the Paycheck Fairness Act, which the House passed in January 2009."
The Paycheck Fairness Act gives teeth to the Equal Pay Act of 1963. It closes numerous loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and stiffens penalties for employers who discriminate based on gender. It protects employees from retaliation for sharing salary information with their co-workers, with some exemptions. And it creates initiatives to provide negotiation skills training programs for girls and women. Just because gender-based pay discrimination is illegal, does not mean it is no longer a great concern.
"On this Equal Pay Day 2010, let us all vow to work together to achieve an America where women are truly given equal pay for equal work," concluded Rep. Baca. "Working for equal pay is the right thing to do. It strengthens the American family and ensures greater fairness in the workplace."
Equal Pay Day is observed in April to indicate how far into each year a woman must work to earn as much as a man earned in the previous year. More information and statistics on pay discrepancies can be found at the National Committee on Pay Equity's website at http://www.pay-equity.org.