In honor of Equal Pay Day on Tuesday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) cosponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act to strengthen federal pay equity laws and ensure equal pay for work. The bill was introduced today by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and cosponsored by Cantwell and 21 other senators.
Equal Pay Day serves as a reminder of the significant pay gap between men and women by marking the number of extra days into 2011 that women have to work to match the 2010 earnings of their male counterparts. In Washington state, a woman can lose nearly half a million dollars over a 40 year period due to the gender wage gap, according to a 2008 study by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
"This "Equal Pay Day,' I am proud to continue to stand up in support of fair pay for women," Sen. Cantwell said."The Paycheck Fairness Act would bring us closer to the goal of pay equity and build upon the promise of the Equal Pay Act. As we focus on economic recovery, it is important to remember that achieving pay equity isn't just about fairness; it's good for the economy and for American families. With 25 percent of all families with children in female-headed households, we cannot accept the status quo of unequal pay for women."
On average, a woman earns just 77 cents for every dollar her male counterpart earns, according to the National Women's Law Center. For women of color, pay disparities are even more marked; African American women make 71 cents on the dollar compared to the highest earners, while Hispanic women make only 62 cents on the dollar.
First introduced 14 years ago, the Paycheck Fairness Act seeks to strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and help close the pay gap by empowering women to negotiate for equal pay, closing loopholes courts have created in the law, creating strong incentives for employers to obey the laws, and strengthening federal outreach and enforcement efforts.
Cantwell has consistently supported pay parity and was a cosponsor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which became law in January 2009 and made it tougher for employers to pay discriminatory wages.