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Public Statements

Commemorating the Golden Jubilee of the Equal Pay Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, today, June 10th, 2013, marks the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act. By mandating equal pay for equal work, this landmark legislation improved the standard of living for women across America. In 1963, when President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, women who worked full-time earned 59 cents on average for every dollar earned by men. In a country where equality, progress, and hard-work are valued, legislation such as the Equal Pay Act continues to stand for those values and promote progress and equality for all Americans.

Indeed the Equal Pay Act has allowed for much progress in the work place. Today, women who work full-time make 77 cents on average for every dollar earned by men. Compared to the rate of 59 cents on the dollar in 1963, this is progress, but not nearly enough. Women are still left wanting in terms of equality in the workplace.

When compared to their Caucasian counterparts, the pay gap for African American and Latina Women is even greater. African American women on average earn only 64 cents and Latina women on average earn only 55 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men.

According to nationwide data, the yearly pay gap is $11,084 between full-time working men and women. The National Partnership for Women and Families has calculated that $11,084 could purchase 89 more weeks of food, could cover more than a year's worth of rent, or pay for more than 3,000 additional gallons of gas. These are vital and necessary expenses for American families.

Although women are directly affected by the Equal Pay Act, it is important to recognize that this is not only a woman's issue. When women are paid less, sons, husbands, daughters, foster children, dependent parents--in short families--suffer. It is, therefore, our responsibility, the representatives of these families, to continue to support and push for equality. This is one reason why Democrats strongly advocate passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would update and strengthen the Equal Pay Act for the first time in 50 years. The Paycheck Fairness Act strengthens the Equal Pay Act, by closing loopholes, including:

Prohibiting employers from retaliating when workers discuss their salaries; making gender-based wage discrimination subject to the same remedies as race-based wage discrimination; recognizing employers for excellence in pay practices and providing assistance to employers that need help implementing equal pay practices; and Enhancing the federal government's ability to investigate and enforce pay discrimination laws.

A Democratic-led House passed the Paycheck Fairness Act in the 110th and 111th congresses but both times Republicans blocked the bill in the Senate. Fifty years ago we had the opportunity to celebrate progress. Today, we have the opportunity to fight for continued progress in our country. I stand today in support of women, in support of families, in support of the Equal Pay Act, and in support of, the Paycheck Fairness Act. It is time to move forward. I urge all my colleagues to join me in support of equality, so that 50 years from now, we may all be able to celebrate the progress we are fighting for today.

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