On Equal Pay Day, Congressman Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico's Third District is calling for Congress to take action to address the wage gap that still exists between women and men. Equal Pay Day symbolizes when, more than three months into the year, women's wages finally catch up to what men were paid in the previous year. Luján is a cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation that strengthens and closes loopholes in the Equal Pay Act that was signed into law nearly 50 years ago.
"With women nation-wide earning 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, and 79 cents for every dollar in New Mexico, it is time to take action that will promote fairness in the workplace and support women and their families," Congressman Luján said. "When a woman brings home less money, it impacts not only her, but her family and the ability to meet their essential needs."
Even when education, industry, and hours are taken into account, there remains a wage gap between men and women. A report by the American Association of University Women found that -- compared to men with the same major who are working full time in the same occupation -- women make 7 percent less one year out of college. Hispanic women face one of the largest wage gaps, earning on average only 55 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men.
Achieving equal pay for women has been one of the top priorities of Democrats in Congress. In January 2009, the Democratic-led Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and it was the first bill President Obama signed into law. This law restores the right of women to challenge unfair pay in court.
"Passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was an important step forward and a victory for women, but more must be done. The Paycheck Fairness Act should be the next step Congress takes to strengthen families across the country and ensure equal pay for equal work," Luján added.