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I join my colleagues and thank the Senator from Missouri for her statement as somebody who has been involved in basically making sure the law is implemented and upheld too. I appreciate her views.
I thank Senator Mikulski for her leadership in advocating for equal pay for equal work. She has been a champion for many years and she is insistent now that we pass this legislation, and that is why we are here, because we want our colleagues to understand how important it is to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.
I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this legislation and end the discrimination many women face in America. This is a critical issue, not only for women but for men because, obviously, the households of America deserve to have both people making equal pay.
The message from the American people is clear: They want Congress to focus on the most important economic issues of the day; that is, jobs. And certainly having a job that pays you equally for the work you do with your coworkers is critically important.
The Paycheck Fairness Act is exactly what we should be working on, ways to strengthen the pocketbooks of many Americans.
While we have made progress over the past five decades since we passed the Equal Pay Act, we still have a long way to go. In my State, the State of Washington, women are paid 78 cents for every $1 that men earn for the same work. That amounts to an average wage gap of $11,000 per year. The truth is that many women are the breadwinners in their family, and they should be paid as breadwinners. They should not face discrimination.
Today women make up 48 percent of the workforce in the State of Washington, and these families are very important to our economy. On average, mothers in Washington provide 41 percent of their household income, and nationally 40 percent of women are the sole primary breadwinners for their households. This is an important issue for our economy. Think of the boost they would get, the boost we would see if they were paid equally.
Right now one-third of those families headed by women in Washington live in poverty, so closing the wage gap means they would be able to afford 82 more weeks of food, according to the National Partnership for Women & Families. It would mean better economic freedom, it would mean the ability to buy more essentials, and it means their families would be better off.
But, more importantly, people need to realize that not only does this pay gap affect women's ability to support their family, the pay gap also reduces their ability to save for the future. From around the age of 35 through retirement, women are typically paid about 75 to 80 percent what men are paid, and over their lifetime a woman in Washington will earn $500,000 less than her male counterpart. That is money that can be saved and invested for the future. So we must pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to end this disparity because this act will require employers to provide justification other than gender for paying men higher wages than women for the exact same job. It protects employees who share that information with others from being retaliated against, and it provides victims of pay discrimination with the same remedies available to victims of other discrimination, including punitive and compensation damages.
This is important legislation. It is important legislation that will end the discrimination women are seeing in the workplace.
The Paycheck Fairness Act will also help eliminate the pay gap to help these families who are struggling in our economy. But just in case people get the wrong idea, I want to make sure people are clear. Even in fields such as engineering and computer science, women earn, on average, only 75 percent of what their male counterparts earn. A woman with a master's degree will only make 70 cents for every $1 of her equally educated male counterparts.
It is time the Senate end the pay discrimination by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act. That is why I have been happy to sponsor this legislation and work with my colleagues. I want young women growing up today to know this is not an issue they are going to have to deal with in the future. They will get equal pay.
I thank my colleagues. I hope my colleagues on the other side of the aisle will help us in invoking cloture and providing the votes we need to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.
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