House oks Paycheck Fairness Act for female workers

WASHINGTON --Turning back objections from big business and yet another veto threat from the anti-worker GOP Bush regime, the House July 31 passed the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill designed to put some teeth into federal equal employment laws. The 247-178 vote saw 14 Republicans join all 233 Democrats in voting yes. All the no votes came from the GOP.

The measure (HR 1338), pushed for 11 years by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and with the strong support of the AFL-CIO and women's rights groups. It drew a blast from the National Association of Manufacturers. NAM said the 1962 law on the issue - which DeLauro's bill updates, is good enough.

NAM said it opposes pay discrimination abased on sex, but warned lawmakers who voted for equal pay that it would use the vote to determine campaign contributions.

Bush's Office of Management and Budget said his senior advisors would strongly recommend he veto HR 1338. They charge it would open the way to unlimited lawsuits over unequal pay. Senate Labor Committee Chairman Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) praised its passage, but did not say when his panel would try to move it.

The threats did not stop DeLauro or her allies from pushing paycheck fairness. “The bill is about ensuring that women who work hard and productively and carry a full range of family responsibilities are paid at a rate they are entitled,” DeLauro said.

Rebutting the White House and big business, DeLauro added “It is time to stand up for working women and their families. We can do that by,,, re-asserting the principle that women and men should be paid the same when doing the same work, and making it real by allowing female employees to sue for compensatory and punitive damages.”

DeLauro said her bill does not impose “the arbitrary caps women face under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. As amended by prior GOP-run Congresses, those caps often put a $300,000 limit on discrimination damages - small change for companies that give woman workers unequal pay.

And DeLauro said her bill “protects employees from retaliation for sharing salary information with their co-workers, with some exemptions.” Lack of data often hampers victims of pay discrimination from finding out, until years later, how much they lost to it.

Aiming at Bush, DeLauro also said her bill “does not eliminate key employer defenses against claims of discrimination. It simply makes clear that when an employer states that its pay scale is informed by a 'factor other than sex' that must actually be true, and not just an excuse to continue discriminatory practices. Kennedy and other lawmakers have introduced a companion Senate bill.