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Public Statements

Paycheck Fairness Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. DODD. Mr. President, I rise today to speak on the Paycheck Fairness Act, a critically important bill to guarantee women equal pay for equal work. I am proud to lead the effort in the Senate to pass this legislation, which my dear friend and colleague ROSA DELAURO has already shepherded through the House of Representatives.

I am pleased that the Senate is finally considering this commonsense legislation and am grateful to the majority leader for his strong support and his recognition of how important this bill is to American families.

Americans must be assured of equity in the workplace. Unfortunately, the fundamental principle of equal pay for equal work has yet to be realized in this country. In my view, it is high time that Congress step in to remedy this injustice.

Despite passage of the Equal Pay Act over 40 years ago, which was intended to ensure that women are paid the same as their male counterparts, a large wage gap still persists. Women are paid, on average, just 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. To put it another way, the pay gap means that the average woman is paid more than $10,000 less per year than she deserves. The gap is even larger in the African American and Hispanic communities, with black women earning 70 cents and Hispanic women earning merely 67 cents for every dollar a man earns. In my view, it is an outrage that in the year 2010 we are still not treating women as equals in the workplace.

Even a college education doesn't suffice to correct this inequality. In my home State of Connecticut, the median wage for a woman with a bachelor's degree is $55,000--which puts her on par with a man who only has a high school diploma. This wage gap means that, cumulatively, a working woman will be shortchanged by $400,000 to $2 million over her lifetime in lost wages, pensions, and Social Security benefits.

Now, some will argue that the wage gap is a product of the choices women make, such as what they study in college, what field they pursue careers in, and whether to take time off to raise their children. But study after study has corrected for every possible variable, and still has found that only part of the wage gap can be explained by measurable factors. The rest of the gap is a result of discrimination in the workplace. One study compared men and women who had pursued the same majors, attended equally good schools, and were entering the same industry, and found that women are already paid less than these identically qualified men just one year out of college.

This is not just a matter of fairness but of economic necessity. Every dollar that women are shortchanged means a dollar less spent in her community, to take care of her family. The problem is particularly acute during the current economic recession, in which women are increasingly the primary or sole breadwinners for their families. Since the recession began, approximately 70 percent of jobs lost were jobs that had been held by men. In the typical married-couple family, this translates into forcing the family to survive on just 42 percent of its former income. This means families have less money to spend on everything--groceries, going out to eat, new school clothes, home and car repairs--all of which means less money going into our local economies. Paying women fairly is not just the right thing to do, it is also an immediate economic boost.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would finally give women tools strong enough
to end wage discrimination. It provides a long-overdue update to the Equal Pay Act, which has not been amended since it was signed into law by President Kennedy in 1963. I would add to my colleagues who may be undecided on whether to support the upcoming cloture vote--it has been forty-seven years since the Equal Pay Act was enacted. If we fail to pass this critically important legislation now, there may not be another opportunity to do so for a decade or more.

The Paycheck Fairness Act improves on the Equal Pay Act by toughening penalties for pay discrimination. It puts gender-based discrimination on equal footing with discrimination based on race or ethnicity by allowing women to sue for compensatory and punitive damages. It closes a significant loophole in the Equal Pay Act that for too long has allowed to justify unequal pay without a legitimate business need. It prohibits employers from punishing whistleblowers. Furthermore, it will require better data collection by the Department of Labor and Equal Opportunity Commission and set up training programs to help women learn more effective salary negotiation skills.

To continue our economic recovery, I believe that we must not only work to create jobs. We must also ensure that those jobs are good jobs. Making sure that all workers are confident that they are being treated and compensated fairly is critical to that goal.

This bill will ensure that workers are paid what they deserve and will provide them with security and fairness in the workplace. I urge my colleagues to support this effort.

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