On Equal Pay Day, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-20) released the following statement:
"In 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law, stating, "It is a first step. It affirms our determination that when women enter the labor force they will find equality in their pay envelopes." Forty seven years later, I am deeply saddened that the wage gap President Kennedy spoke of so long ago remains open today. And it is in protest of this wage gap that every April we mark Equal Pay Day -- the month in which the wages paid to American women "catch up" to the wages paid to men from the previous year.
"Equal pay is not simply a women's issue -- it is an American issue. The wage gap hurts every person in every nook and cranny of our nation -- husbands, wives, children, and parents -- because it lowers family incomes. It lowers the ability of American families to pay for necessities like groceries and medicine, and raises the number of difficult choices they must make -- do I put food on the table tonight or take my daughter to the doctor tomorrow? Choices like these should not have to be made in America. When women earn more, families earn more.
"I am proud that achieving equal pay for women is one of the top priorities of the 111th Congress and commend the progress achieved in the first year of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 of which I was a proud cosponsor. The Act restores employees' rights to challenge pay discrimination and in the year since President Obama signed it into law, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has reviewed over 1,100 cases where people were denied wage compensation, and some 4,800 charges alleging wage discrimination were filed with the Commission. Numerous court cases have also cited the law in an effort to win compensation for back-earnings.
"This law was an important step forward, but it's just the beginning. In the third quarter of 2009, women were still earning only 81 percent of what men earned. In the fourth quarter of last year, women made an average of $670 per week, to a man's $825. Statistics such as these are unacceptable, which is why I am also an original cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act.
"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. I urge my Senate colleagues to support this legislation so that we can send it to President Obama's desk to be signed into law.
"It is long overdue that we stop gender-based pay discrimination in its tracks. As the Representative of Florida's 20th Congressional District, my constituents can rest assured that I will continue my fight to ensure that the gender-based wage gap in this country is sealed shut once and for all. Together, we can and we must do better -- not only for our mothers, daughters, granddaughters, and sisters, but for the greatness of America."