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Public Statements

Paycheck Fairness Act--Motion to Proceed--Resumed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. REID. Mr. President, most Americans believe if they get an education, they work hard and play by the rules, they will have a fair shot at success. But for millions of American women, no amount of talent or dedication will bring pay equality with their male coworkers. In the minds of many employers, they simply are not equal.

American women take home 77 cents for every $1 their male colleagues earn for doing the exact same work. That stunning fact holds true whether the woman has a college degree, regardless of how many hours she spends in the office each week or on some manufacturing floor and regardless of what job she holds--77 cents applies.

But listen to this. If she is an African-American or Hispanic woman, the disparity is even starker. African-American women make 62 cents on the dollar and Hispanic women 54 cents on the dollar compared to White men working the same hours and doing the same jobs. They are not working at different jobs; these are the exact same jobs. If someone is Hispanic and they are a woman, they get about half as much as a man doing the same job. If they are African American, they get about 62 cents compared to every $1 a man makes.

While landmark pieces of legislation such as the Equal Pay Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act have narrowed the pay gap, they have not closed the gap, and that is obvious by the numbers I just announced to the Senate. So Congress must do more. This act that is before the Senate would give workers stronger tools to combat wage discrimination.

One of the tools of retaliation employers have is they

fire workers if they discuss how much they make with another worker. Our legislation would bar retaliation against workers for discussing salary information. Why do we have this in the bill? We have this landmark legislation that we had to pass because the Supreme Court ruled against Lilly Ledbetter.

Lilly Ledbetter is a woman who worked in Alabama for many years, and she didn't know she was being paid far less than her male counterparts who did the same work. So when she learned of this, she filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court said: Sorry, Lilly. You didn't file it in time; the statute of limitations has run, meaning she had to file within a certain period of time.

We have many different places in the law where we do not start tolling the statute until someone learns something is wrong. For example, we had to go back on medical malpractice cases where people were treated negligently by physicians, but the poor patient didn't realize this until long after. For example, in the State of Nevada, there is a 2-year statute of limitations. So we changed that in most places in the country, and we need to make sure people understand, in this instance--now that we passed the Lilly Ledbetter legislation--the time doesn't start running until one has learned they are being cheated.

Our legislation would bar retaliation against workers for discussing salary information, and it would help secure adequate compensation for victims of gender-based pay discrimination. Let's look at the State of Nevada. Over their lifetimes, Nevada women will earn about $475 million less than their male counterparts--almost $500 million.

This is not just an issue for women; it is a family issue. Why? Because every year millions of American families are cheated out of money they could spend on groceries, rent, and gas. Every year wage discrimination puts almost 400,000 Nevada children at risk.

For many families in Nevada and across the country a woman is the only income generator in that family. For many more women that person is the primary breadwinner. Yet Republicans have vowed to block this legislation. It is in all the news today. Every headline in the news talks about this bill coming up today and the Republicans are saying they are going to vote against it because it creates too much bookwork.

They vowed to block legislation that would even the playing field and help women provide for their families even though Americans overwhelmingly support this legislation. Nine out of ten Americans--including 81 percent of men and 77 percent of the Republicans--support pay equity legislation.

Once again, the only Republicans who are against our commonsense measure are the ones who are in Congress in Washington. Even Mitt Romney has refused to publicly oppose this legislation. He may oppose it, but he is afraid to say anything about it. Why? Because it is obvious why. He should show some leadership. In my opinion, Governor Romney should tell his fellow Republicans that opposing fair pay for all Americans is shameful. Instead, no one knows where he stands, but we know where Democrats stand. Everyone knows. We stand firmly on the side of equality for every working woman.

Democrats stand with middle-class women who are working to keep their families afloat during these difficult times. We stand with young women pursuing a college education who are hoping to get a good-paying job when they graduate. We stand with little girls whose mothers taught them there is no limit to their dreams.

This evening Americans will see where Republicans stand on this issue. It is unfortunate they, once again, favor obstruction over equality.


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