The Obama administration is urging the U.S. Senate to end wage discrimination against women by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act. The House of Representatives has already approved a companion bill.
Today, women make only 77 cents to every dollar earned by men. "According to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wages of full-time, year-round workers in 2008 stood at $35,745 for women and $46,367 for men," writes the AFL-CIO's James Parks.
President Obama called the bill "common sense," stating it "will help ensure that men and women who do equal work receive the equal pay that they and their families deserve."
Vice President Joe Biden, speaking at Tuesday's meeting of the Middle Class Task Force focusing on the problems facing working families, said, "This is a chance to get on the right side of history. You have to look into the eyes of your granddaughters and the young women who you hired ... and say, 'You know, when it came time, I didn't step up.'"
The Paycheck Fairness Act would have the same force of law as measures against racial discrimination. In addition it would bar retaliation against workers for disclosing pay scales, and would facilitate class action suits. Significantly it would require employers to insure men and women receive the same pay for equal work, placing the onus on the company.
For this reason the measure is bitterly opposed by big business. Allan Dinkoff, with the employment law practice at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, argues, "The bill risks altering in very fundamental ways how corporate America compensates its employees without any real justification for imposing that burden."
Predictably the GOP has lent its voice to the opposition. A spokesman for House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio called the pay equity bill "a cruel hoax."
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposes it as well, claiming the law will "burden America's businesses with frivolous litigation during already trying economic times."
Readers can support this measure by lending their names to a campaign aimed at the Senate by momsrising.org. Click here to join the effort.
One of the first measures enacted by the Obama administration was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act allowing women experiencing pay discrimination to receive lost wages.
Ledbetter expressed strong support for the new legislation. "Had the Paycheck Fairness bill been law during my day, I wouldn't have had to go as far as I did," she said. "I could have asked the employer, 'How do I stand with my co-workers?' ... and not worry about retaliation."
Photo: Lilly Ledbetter http://search.ahp.us.army.mil/search/images/?per=10&page=1021