Ms. CANTWELL. Madam President, I come to the Senate floor to join my colleagues on the women's side of the Senate who will be coming to the floor this morning, along with Senator Mikulski--and I thank her for her leadership--to talk about pay equity and the issue of equal pay for equal work.
I am proud to stand here on what is the 4-year anniversary of the historic Lilly Ledbetter legislation that we were able to pass. What an unbelievable moment that was, to work for what is equal treatment for women in our court system. Lilly Ledbetter went across the Nation and came to Congress and communicated very well to many Americans on this issue that sometimes you could be discriminated against and not even know it until your retirement, which was the case with her. Yet the legal system failed to take any action at that point. So we passed the Lilly Ledbetter legislation to make sure that in our court system women could find out and have those remedies brought before our system and fight for equal pay.
My State of Washington has been a leader in increasing the minimum wage. We have a minimum wage that is indexed to inflation, and I am proud of that. But pay disparity continues to persist between men and women, and that is why I am here, to urge my colleagues to help close this gap. We are here to advocate for the Paycheck Fairness Act because full-time working women still earn 75 percent of what their male counterparts earn for the same job, according to a report by the Economic Opportunity Institute.
While the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was a step forward, we need to pass this additional legislation to help end pay inequity and take the next steps toward helping women. The Paycheck Fairness Act will help us move toward closing the gap between men and women, and it does the following things: It requires employers to provide justification other than gender for paying men higher wages than for women; it protects employees who share the same salary information from potential retaliation from their employers; and it provides victims of pay discrimination the same remedies available to victims of other kinds of discrimination, including punitive and compensatory damages.
This bill also helps create outreach programs for employers to help them understand this issue and to help end pay disparity. I certainly look forward to the passing of this legislation because closing this gap means women in my State will be able to afford 13 more months of rent or 39 more months of family health insurance premiums, according to an estimate by the National Partnership for Women and Families.
We have to level the playing field so these kinds of estimates are not just projections but they are realities. We can't support the status quo while the economic security of women and families is undermined. One-third of families headed by women in my State are in poverty. This can be attributed, in part, to policies that perpetuate lower pay for women. So we must end unequal pay practices and level the playing field.
It is in this spirit of fair play that we ask for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act. I know Senator Mikulski and others who have fought hard on this legislation will be here to speak this morning, and I am proud we are sponsors of the Paycheck Fairness Act that was introduced just last week. Today, almost 50 years after passage of the Equal Pay Act and 4 years after the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, we still need to hit another giant milestone in helping women get fair pay in America.
We made a big step toward all this with Lilly Ledbetter's leadership, but now we need to pass this new legislation. It was an important milestone that will help women be confident they will be treated fairly in the workplace and to make sure they continue to have access to the courts. Whether they are an engineer or a lawyer or a police officer, women should not have to earn less doing the same job as a coworker. That is why we need to pass this Paycheck Fairness Act today.
I want women who grow up in the United States of America to know there is no doubt they will earn the same pay they deserve for their work. That is what our country is all about, and that is why we are going to work hard this session to pass this legislation.
I thank the President pro tempore, I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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