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Mrs. HAGAN. Mr. President, I certainly want to congratulate Senator Mikulski for all the hard work she has done, not only on this bill but on all the bills on which she has worked so hard on behalf of women in our country. I applaud her for her efforts.
I join with my colleagues to discuss an issue that affects women and families across America every day; it is the wage gap. Almost 50 years have passed since the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, and the wage gap between men and women remains wide today. It is time to bring the wages of women in line with those of their male counterparts.
I am proud to be an original cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act. Yet some question why we need this bill. Well, the numbers make it pretty clear. Women in the United States earn 77 cents for every dollar that men earn. In North Carolina, it is a little better but not equal. Women earn 81 cents for every dollar earned by men doing the same work, the same job. Over the course of 1 year, women in North Carolina experience nearly $8,000 in lost wages. That is $8,000 from what her male counterparts earn.
With that $8,000, a woman could spend for her family an extra $110 a week on groceries for 73 weeks. She could buy another 2,200 gallons of gas at $3.60 a gallon. If women were paid the same as men for the same work, these are just a few of the expenses they would be able to afford more easily.
The wage gap is not isolated in one industry either. It exists across virtually every sector of our economy. The wage gap exists regardless of education level. In many cases, the most educated women are paid less for the same work, and it exists regardless of a woman's personal choices, such as becoming a mother. Working mothers should not pay a penalty for having children.
A group in North Carolina called MomsRising told me in the last few months they have heard from women across the State--from Wilmington, from Durham, from Greensboro, and from Raleigh--that once these women actually had children, they got overlooked for promotions, overlooked for pay raises, and overlooked for the projects on which they wanted to work. However, this collective group of women are afraid to speak out about their wage discrimination because in this economy they are worried about getting fired from the job they need to support their families.
Yesterday I met with women and small business owners in Charlotte to discuss the Paycheck Fairness Act.
My visit with those fantastic women reinforced for me the importance of this bill, the Paycheck Fairness Act. One woman brought her young son with her to the event and they both wore T-shirts that each had a number on the front. The mom's shirt said 94 and the son's shirt said 50. If earnings continue at the slow pace they are going now, those numbers signify the ages that mom and that son will be when pay equality is achieved in our country. Sadly, at the rate we are going, most of us in the Senate will not live to see that day.
This wage gap has real consequences, not just for women but for their children too. In North Carolina alone, women head over 500,000 households. The economic security of women and families is put at risk when they are paid less than men for performing the same jobs. Later today I will be voting to help close this gap, to help bring the wages of women in line with those of their male counterparts. I am hopeful that petty partisan gamesmanship does not get in the way of a bipartisan issue that both Democrats and Republicans, men and women, overwhelmingly support.
In a recent poll, 81 percent of men and 87 percent of women supported having a law to provide women more tools to get fair pay in the workplace. This poll also showed support for such a law from 77 percent of Republicans and 87 percent of Independents and 91 percent of Democrats. With such widespread approval, we should be able to address this issue right away.
We need Paycheck Fairness to prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who discuss salary information with their coworkers. We need Paycheck Fairness to strengthen the legal remedies available for women to ensure they can be compensated for pay discrimination. We need Paycheck Fairness to provide businesses, especially small ones, assistance with equal pay practices.
On the eve of the anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, we need to close the loopholes that allow pay discrimination to happen. The Paycheck Fairness Act would do just that by helping women successfully fight for full pay.
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Mrs. HAGAN. Equal pay for equal work to me is just basic common sense. I hope this body can come together to address this disparity that exists in North Carolina and around our country.
I again thank Senator Mikulski for the work she is doing on behalf of this very important bill that is truly going to make a difference in the lives of women throughout our country, as well as their families.
I yield the floor.
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