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Ms. MIKULSKI. Mr. President, I thank Senator Coons.
I probably will not take 10 minutes, but what I will speak about is really compelling.
AMENDMENT NO. 431
Later on during the vote-arama we will be considering my amendment that will create a reserve fund that should we pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, it will in no way negate the spending within our budget. It is essentially the functional equivalent of a sense-of-the-Senate resolution that the Senate should pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.
We talk a lot about growing the economy. The economy will grow when people work. The people who are entering the workforce who have been one of the driving forces for the last 30 years are women. Although we are in the workforce full force, we are still not being paid equal pay for equal work. It is outrageous. If you want to grow the economy, pass paycheck fairness so we are not harassed for simply trying to find out what our pay is and how we can get equal pay for the same job.
Women across America are worried about staying in the middle class if they are already there or getting to the middle class if they are not there. Nearly 50 years after passage of the Equal Pay Act, women still get paid less than men.
This budget is a reflection of our values and priorities, and eliminating the wage gap should be one. For years I and other colleagues have fought for paycheck fairness. Under that act, no longer would employers be able to retaliate against workers for sharing information about wages. Right now, if you ask someone what they get paid, you can get fired. This bill follows on from the famous Lilly Ledbetter Act. Lilly herself was humiliated and harassed because she tried to find out what she was making.
No longer will women be able to seek only backpay when they are discriminated against. Under this bill they could also seek punitive damages. No longer would employers be able to use almost any reason for paying a woman less: Oh, the men do harder jobs. Oh, they have a better education than you. In fact, the reverse is happening. Women entering the workforce are often better educated, with more academic and trade certifications than men who are doing it. Women are also doing hard and dangerous jobs. We can look at what they do in the military. We can look at them as firefighters, police officers, and prison guards.
Under the legislation I am proposing, no longer will women be on their own in fighting for equal pay for equal work. In this country we say: If you work hard and play by the rules, you will get ahead. We work hard every day, but we find that the rules are different for women than for men. Actually, the rules in many workplaces are rigged against us.
So I would hope that we would adopt my amendment today that would allow us to be able to go forward later on in the year and pass paycheck fairness. It is important to the women in the workplace, and it is important to our economy.
Much is being said about being progrowth. Who is not progrowth? Of course we want to grow our economy. If we look at the tax structure, I believe we should reward--right now, the tax structure is tilted and the tax breaks that we give are to reward people who make money off of money, not people who make money off of products or the sweat of their own brow. So I think we need to take a look at the Tax Code.
My State is an entrepreneurial-driven State. We are an innovation economy in biotech, cyber tech, space tech. At the same time, we have people who work hard every single day in agriculture, in poultry, in mining, in trying to earn a living by very hard work. I believe we should have a Tax Code that rewards it.
I yield the floor.
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