Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT) made the following opening statement at a Steering and Policy Committee Hearing on equal pay this afternoon. Members heard from women who have real-life experience with gender-based pay discrimination and scholar and author Barbara Ehrenreich. The Senate will vote Tuesday on the Paycheck Fairness Act, of which DeLauro is the original author. DeLauro also read a statement at the hearing from Lilly Ledbetter, the namesake of the 2009 law that ensured employees' rights to challenge pay discrimination.
The remarks are as prepared for delivery:
Thank you to Leader Pelosi and Steering and Policy co-chair George Miller, for holding this important hearing on the financial pressures facing women today, specifically the Paycheck Fairness Act and the need to close the gender wage gap. I want to point out that under Speaker Pelosi, the House of Representatives passed the Paycheck Fairness Act twice.
I also want to thank all the advocates and representatives here from the Fair Pay Coalition today, especially those from the National Partnership for Women and Families, the National Women's Law Center, and the American Association of University Women. Thank you for making women's voices heard.
To our distinguished panel--Barbara Ehrenreich, AnnMarie Duchon, and Terri Kelly: thank you for sharing your insights, your expertise, and your experiences. Your experiences show us how real this problem is for all women.
Almost fifty years after Congress passed the Equal Pay Act to end the "serious and endemic" problem of unequal wages, women -- now one half of the workforce -- are still making only 77 cents on the dollar as compared to men. This holds true across occupations and education levels.
Some conservatives have called unequal pay "a myth" and a "distraction." It is neither. Women should be paid the same as men for the same work. That is what Paycheck Fairness is all about--same work, same pay.
In this economy women are facing considerable financial pressures. About one-third of mothers are the sole breadwinners for their families. In 2010, in nearly two-thirds of families, a mother was either the breadwinner or co-breadwinner. Less pay for women means less income to go around for the entire family.
Poverty rates for women are the highest they have been in 17 years. * Women are facing a slower jobs recovery than their male counterparts. * Women are more likely than men to fall victim to predatory lending--they are filing for bankruptcies at unprecedented rates. * They pay higher health care costs and have less pension protection and, though they are more reliant on Social Security than men, receive lower payments due to lost wages over their lifetime.
The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act restored employees' ability to challenge pay discrimination in court, after the Supreme Court placed unprecedented constraints on the timeframe within which a suit would be eligible. That was critical.
The Paycheck Fairness Act would take the critical next steps to stop discrimination in the first place by making needed reforms to the 50 year old Equal Pay Act - putting an end to pay secrecy, strengthening workers' ability to challenge discrimination, and bringing equal pay law into line with other civil rights laws. Passing it is also critical.
I first introduced this bill in 1997, and as I said it passed the House twice in the last two Congresses with bipartisan support before being narrowly blocked by Senate Republicans. And President Obama has pledged to sign the legislation when it comes to his desk. I hope when the Senate brings it up again next week, we can finally make Paycheck Fairness the law, and take concrete steps to help end the financial pressures women face as a result of unequal pay. Thank you.