U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today was joined at a press conference by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) along with representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) as well as a victim of pay discrimination.
Together they urged the Senate to take up and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation which will help close the wage gap between women and men working equivalent jobs, costing women and their families $434,000 over their careers.
"It's been nearly half a century since the Equal Pay Act, but women still make just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. Five years ago, we took a crucial step with Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, keeping the courthouse doors open for women to seek justice for unpaid wages. Today, the Paycheck Fairness Act finishes what we started," said Senator Mikulski, who introduced the bill in the Senate. "The legislation I've introduced ensures that women will no longer be on their own fighting for equal pay for equal work. With Paycheck Fairness, we can put change in the lawbooks, and change into checkbooks of working families across America."
"The wage gap holds true across occupations and education levels," Congresswoman DeLauro said. "This is not just a problem for women. Less pay for women means less income. That affects the entire family. This is a real and continuing problem for women and families. With the wage gap closing at a rate of less than half a cent a year we are long past time for the Paycheck Fairness Act to be law. Women and families have already waited too long for this common sense piece of legislation. For America to succeed, we need women to succeed, and passing the Paycheck Fairness Act is a key part of that."
Later, that day, Senator Mikulski will chair a Senate HELP Committee hearing Tuesday on the legislation. Senator Mikulski introduced the bill in the Senate. Congresswoman DeLauro introduced the bill in the House. The Senate is expected to take up the bill in the coming weeks. While women still make on average 77 cents to every dollar made by a male, the Paycheck Fairness Act builds on the promise of the Equal Pay Act, passed more than 50 years ago on June 10, 1963. It helps close the pay gap by empowering women to negotiate for equal pay, closing loopholes courts have created in the law, creating strong incentives for employers to obey the laws and strengthening federal outreach and enforcement efforts.
"The Paycheck Fairness Act is about women, it's about fairness, and it's about improving the economy," Senator Murray said. "When women aren't paid what they deserve, middle class families and communities pay the price. I am so proud to join my colleagues in calling for immediate passage of this commonsense legislation."
"Think about woman working in a plant or a factory. That is hard work that drives America's economy. She shouldn't make $1,300 a month less than her male co-workers, just because she's a woman," Sen. Landrieu said. "If you are a middle class family striving to build a more prosperous future, that $1,300 a month makes a huge difference. It could be saved up for a down payment or to make monthly mortgage payments so the family can own a home. And, it could help a family send its kids to college. Equal pay is not just about women; it is about families who are pursuing the American Dream. I have a daughter and a son, and I can't believe we live in a time where my daughter still could not make the same amount of money as my son for the same work."
"Women are breadwinners, and they need to be paid as breadwinners. Today, women make up 48 percent of the Washington state workforce and 38 percent of married employed mothers in Washington are their families' primary wage earners. Yet, one-third of households led by women in Washington live in poverty," said Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). "I urge my colleagues to move forward on the Paycheck Fairness Act. It's is about fairness to women, and it is also about their future and their freedom in retirement. Lower earnings reduce a woman's ability to save for the future, and limit her contributions to retirement savings."
"Women don't have a fair shot if they're being paid 77 cents on the dollar when compared to men. Women don't get a 23-percent discount at the grocery store or the gas pump, so they should not be getting a discount on their wages either," said Senator Stabenow. "It's 2014. It's long past time for women to earn equal pay for equal work."
"Lower wages impact women not just during their working years, but straight through retirement," Senator Klobuchar said. "Passing the Paycheck Fairness Act and other policies to help close the pay gap are important for women and their families, but they're also critical to ensuring the strength of our entire economy."
"Ensuring women get equal pay for equal work is a battle my mom had to fight. When a working woman--who is often the sole breadwinner or a significant contributor to her household-- can still be paid less than her male colleagues for the same work, it does a great disservice to all those families working hard to make ends meet," said Senator McCaskill. "I refuse to accept that in 2014 this should still be the status quo, and I'm determined not to leave this fight for my daughters to finish."
"While women in America have made significant strides and cut through barriers, the fight for equal pay for equal work is not over," Shaheen said. "It's time to finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act in order to strengthen laws protecting women from pay discrimination."
"Wage inequality impacts women and families in every state across this country," said Senator Baldwin. "Working women make up over 50 percent of our workforce and they are working harder than ever to get ahead, but far too many are struggling just to get by. The least we can do is level the playing field and give women a fair shot at getting ahead because they deserve equal pay for equal work."
"There are now 20 women in the Senate. This is a milestone in America -- but we still have much further to go," said Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.). "The same can be said about pay discrimination in the workplace. The fact that women still only earn 77 percent of what men earn is a stark statistic, particularly as a recent study showed that women are now the leading or solo breadwinners in 40 percent of households. It isn't just shortchanging women, it's also shortchanging their families that could use a full salary to put food on the table or pay for medical bills. It's past time that we pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to give all women and families the pay they deserve."
"With more and more women serving as heads of households, it is critical for families in these difficult economic times that women receive equal pay for equal work. Sadly, American women are still paid only 77 cents for every dollar a man is paid," Senator Hirono said. "Even in Hawaii, where women make 83 cents for every dollar, women are taking home about $7,700 less per year in wages. Given Hawaii's high cost of living, that difference is painful. Congress shouldn't wait any longer to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and close the wage gap on behalf of women and families."
"Making sure women receive equal pay for equal work is a key part of rebuilding our economy and strengthening America's middle class," said Senator Warren. "It takes two incomes to get by these days, and many families depend as much on Mom's salary as they do on Dad's. And for single-parent families, lower salaries make it that much harder to stay afloat. We need to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act now to help working women earn what they're worth."
In January, President Obama renewed his call for Congress to pass the legislation in his State of the Union Address. The legislation would require employers to demonstrate that wage gaps between men and women doing the same work have a business justification and are truly a result of factors other than gender. The bill would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information with their co-workers.
The Paycheck Fairness Act also would strengthen the Department of Labor's (DOL) ability to help women achieve pay equity by requiring DOL to enhance outreach and training efforts to work with employers in order to eliminate pay disparities and to continue to collect and disseminate wage information based on gender. The bill would also create a competitive grant program to provide negotiation skills training programs for girls and women.
"After being told by my employer that I couldn't negotiate my starting salary, I learned after my company went bankrupt that men I had supervised were making much more than I was. I was heartbroken. When I asked my former supervisor why I had been paid less, he said it was likely because those men were the sole earners for their wives and children. I was considered less worthy just because I was a woman," said Kerri Sleeman of Hancock, MI, an AAUW member and a regional field manager for AAUW and the WAGE Project's $tart $mart salary negotiation workshops.
"We need the Paycheck Fairness Act to bring the Equal Pay Act into the 21st Century. By refusing to update the Equal Pay Act, Congress is essentially endorsing Mad Men policies. Those who don't support the Paycheck Fairness Act need a reality check -- and a new calendar," said Lisa Maatz, AAUW vice president of government relations.
"The Paycheck Fairness Act is a measure that the American public -- across the country and across parties -- overwhelmingly support. This is not surprising since families need to bring home every dollar they rightfully earn. Not only is correcting wage discrimination a matter of fundamental fairness, but research shows that doing so, would help contribute to economic prosperity nationwide. We thank Senator Mikulski and the Senate HELP Committee for this important hearing and urge swift passage of the bill," said Deborah J. Vagins, Senior Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office.
"Millions of working women experience a wage gap, typically losing more than $11,000 in wages over the course of the year. At a time when mothers are primary breadwinners in 40 percent of families, these lost wages represent basic necessities--like food, housing, child care and health insurance. Since no woman and no family can afford to have employers discounting their salaries, it's time for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act," said Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment, NWLC.