Congress Moran’s News Commentary: Celebrating 50 Years of the Equal Pay Act

June 12, 2013 5:28 PM3 comments

This week marked the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act. When President John F. Kennedy signed this historic legislation into law, women were making 59 cents for every dollar that men earned doing the same work. At the time he signed the law, President Kennedy referred to the bill as a “first step” in closing the large wage gap.

While this historic legislation did narrow the gap, a half a century later it remains. Women on average only earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn – $11,836 less each year than men according to the American Association of University Women (AAUW). And the disparity grows when you look at minorities –African American women are paid 64 cents and Latinas are paid just 55 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.

This pay gap is not solely an issue of fairness; it has a large impact on the economic wellbeing of millions of Americans. Women are increasingly the breadwinners of their household, including more than 350,000 homes in Virginia. Lower salaries take money out of a woman’s pocket that could be used to put food on the table, pay rent, and save for education expenses. Further, a lower wage sets women up for decreased quality of life in later years by leading to lower Social Security benefits and reduced retirement security.

One recent piece of legislation that will help to expedite a more equal workplace is the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act – the very first law that President Obama signed upon entering office in 2009. This law guarantees that women and other workers can challenge unfair pay.

The legislation was inspired by Lilly Ledbetter, a manager at the Gadsden Alabama Goodyear Tire and Rubber Plant who worked the night shift for 19 years and discovered upon her retirement that she was paid up to $1,500 a month – nearly 20 percent – less than men working in the same job. Lilly took her fight all the way to the Supreme Court – and lost – because she hadn’t filed a complaint within 180 days of receiving her first discriminatory paycheck. Lilly had no way of knowing that she was being underpaid all those years. The law now states that a worker can file a complaint within 180 days of any discriminatory paycheck, so that someone facing the same situation Lilly faced would have recourse to justice.

Though the Equal Pay Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act have helped to narrow the wage gap and challenge unfair pay, the fact remains that women are still not earning a fair wage. To help fix this inequity, I have cosponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would update the Equal Pay Act to provide more effective remedies to women who are not being paid equal wages for doing equal work.

Specifically, the Paycheck Fairness Act puts gender-based discrimination sanctions on equal footing with other forms of wage discrimination – such as race, disability or age – by allowing women to sue for compensatory and punitive damages. Though the Paycheck Fairness Act passed the House of Representatives in 2009, it was blocked by Republican leadership in the 112th Congress, and has not been considered in this session.

As we recognize the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, I will remain committed to ensuring women are adequately compensated for the enormous contributions they make to the workplace, starting with passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

 

  • MaleMatters

    Here’s what Moran cannot afford to reflect on regarding the gender wage gap:

    Probably most women’s pay-equity advocates think employers are greedy profiteers who’d hire only illegal immigrants for their lower labor cost if they could get away with it. Or move their business to a cheap-labor country to save money. Or replace older workers with younger ones for the same reason. So why do these same advocates think employers would NOT hire only women if, as they say, employers DO get away with paying females at a lower rate than males for the same work?

    Here’s one of countless examples showing that some of the most sophisticated women in the country choose to earn less while getting paid at the same rate as their male counterparts:

    “In 2011, 22% of male physicians and 44% of female physicians worked less than full time, up from 7% of men and 29% of women from Cejka’s 2005 survey.” ama-assn.org/amednews/2012/03/26/bil10326.htm

    A thousand laws won’t close that gap.

    In fact, no law yet has closed the gender wage gap — not the 1963 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, not Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, not the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, not affirmative action (which has benefited mostly white women, the group most vocal about the wage gap – tinyurl.com/74cooen), not the 1991 amendments to Title VII, not the 1991 Glass Ceiling Commission created by the Civil Rights Act, not the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, not diversity, not the countless state and local laws and regulations, not the thousands of company mentors for women, not the horde of overseers at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and not the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which is another feel-good bill that turned into another do-nothing law (good intentions do not necessarily make things better; sometimes, the path to a worse condition is paved with good intentions)…. Nor will a “paycheck fairness” law work.

    That’s because women’s pay-equity advocates, who always insist one more law is needed, continue to overlook the effects of female AND male behavior:

    Despite the 40-year-old demand for women’s equal pay, millions of wives still choose to have no pay at all. In fact, according to Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of “The Secrets of Happily Married Women,” stay-at-home wives, including the childless who represent an estimated 10 percent, constitute a growing niche. “In the past few years,” he says in a CNN report at tinyurl.com/6reowj, “many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home.” (“Census Bureau data show that 5.6 million mothers stayed home with their children in 2005, about 1.2 million more than did so a decade earlier….” at tinyurl.com/qqkaka. If indeed a higher percentage of women is staying at home, perhaps it’s because feminists and the media have told women for years that female workers are paid less than men in the same jobs — so why bother working if they’re going to be penalized and humiliated for being a woman.)

    As full-time mothers or homemakers, stay-at-home wives earn zero. How can they afford to do this while in many cases living in luxury? Answer: Because they’re supported by their husband, an “employer” who pays them to stay at home. (Far more wives are supported by a spouse than are husbands.)

    The implication of this is probably obvious to most 12-year-olds but seems incomprehensible to, or is wrongly dismissed as irrelevant by, feminists and the liberal media: If millions of wives are able to accept NO wages, millions of other wives, whose husbands’ incomes vary, are more often able than husbands to:

    -accept low wages

    -refuse overtime and promotions

    -choose jobs based on interest first, wages second — the reverse of what men tend to do

    -take more unpaid days off

    -avoid uncomfortable wage-bargaining (tinyurl.com/3a5nlay)

    -work fewer hours than their male counterparts, or work less than full-time instead of full-time (as in the above example regarding physicians)

    Any one of these job choices lowers women’s median pay relative to men’s. And when a wife makes one of the choices, her husband often must take up the slack, thereby increasing HIS pay.

    Women who make these choices are generally able to do so because they are supported — or, if unmarried, anticipate being supported — by a husband who feels pressured to earn more than if he’d chosen never to marry. (Married men earn more than single men, but even many men who shun marriage, unlike their female counterparts, feel their self worth is tied to their net worth.) This is how MEN help create the wage gap: as a group they tend more than women to pass up jobs that interest them for ones that pay well.

    More in “Will the Ledbetter Act Help Women?” at malemattersusa.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/will-the-ledbetter-fair-pay-act-help-women/

    “Feminists don’t want you to know how women help create the wage gap: Women ‘want rich husbands, not careers'”
    http://malemattersusa.wordpress.com/2012/03/29/what-feminists-dont-want-you-to-know-women-want-rich-husbands-not-careers/

    “By the late 1990s, the proportion of women who were ‘marrying up’ had almost doubled to 38 percent. Similar patterns are seen across much of Europe, the US and Australia. Hakim said many women did not want to admit that they were looking for a higher earning partner. They even keep the fact secret from the men they are dating, Catherine Hakim said.”

    “And overall, women are still 135 times more likely than men leave the workplace for family reasons.” Warren Farrell:

    “What Prevents Dads from Being Involved?”

    http://malemattersusa.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/warren-farrell-what-prevents-dads-from-being-involved/

    • JFallsChurch

      Don’t you think Moran’s reason for this article is that women make up approx 50% of the voting population.

      • MaleMatters

        I sure do! Thanks for reminding readers of that important point.

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