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Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, at a time when families across America are struggling to make ends meet, equal pay for equal work isn't just a women's issue, it is a family issue. As the father of two daughters, I also see it as a fairness issue. I am an original cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act because all of our daughters deserve the right to be compensated and valued fairly. This bill would take strong action to address the gender pay gap by helping women successfully fight for the equal pay they earn.
This bill would address the pay gap by enhancing enforcement of equal pay laws. Specifically, it would prohibit retaliation against workers who ask about or discuss wage information, and would provide more effective remedies for women subjected to discriminatory pay practices. It also requires the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to collect pay data to enable better enforcement of laws prohibiting pay discrimination.
Across the Nation, women continue to earn substantially less than men for performing the same work. Women earn only 77 cents for every $1 men earn, with women of color at an even greater disadvantage with 64 cents on the dollar for African-American women and 56 cents for Hispanic women. As more and more American families rely on women's wages for a significant portion of their income, the pay gap hurts not only women, but the families that depend on them.
Today, in my home State of Massachusetts, women make up 49 percent of the state workforce and 31 percent of married employed mothers in Massachusetts are their families' primary wage earners.
Unfortunately, women in Massachusetts earn less across all occupations and educational levels. Research clearly demonstrates that regardless of occupation, education, industry, marital status, and other factors, pay for women lags behind their male counterparts. Women's median earnings are less than men's median earnings in almost every major occupation.
This burden of wage discrimination weighs heavily on the almost 1 million Massachusetts children in households dependent on their mothers' earnings. As the main breadwinners, women are asked to carry a greater economic load while only earning 81 cents for every $1 paid to men. Over their lifetimes, these Massachusetts women will earn $475,000 less than their male counterparts. This pay gap has harmed the families of roughly 1,576,000 women in the Massachusetts workforce, especially as the workforce participation rate of women has risen. On average, mothers in Massachusetts contribute to 37 percent of their family's earnings. Closing the gender pay gap would strengthen the finances of these families, and the State economy. If the wage gap is eliminated, these families would have additional earnings to purchase 83 more weeks of food or 5 months of mortgage payments or more than 2,500 additional gallons of gasoline.
I am disappointed and frustrated that the Senate failed to move ahead on this important legislation due to minority opposition. Republicans filibustered this commonsense legislation that would ensure fair pay for equal work--and then not a single Republican Senator voted in favor of moving it forward. It is incomprehensible to me that Members who claim to want to strengthen the economy and provide jobs for everyone would vote to ignore half of our population. Economic security should be for all Americans and legislation ensuring a level playing field just makes sense. Eliminating the pay gap will make Massachusetts families and families across the Nation more secure.
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