WASHINGTON (PAI)–For the second time in three years, a Republican Senate filibuster threat killed the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation designed to bring the U.S. towards the goal of equal pay for equal work.

The June 5 party-line vote was 52-47 on a motion to start regular debate on the bill, but supporters needed 60 votes to win.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., switched to “no” at the last minute to preserve the right to bring it up again in the future.

 “This was very disappointing,” said Carol Rosenblatt, executive director of the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW). The group was one of a coalition that mounted a three-week phone and e-mail blitz of senators, especially Republicans, urging them to debate and pass the legislation, not bury it under a filibuster.

But no Republicans, male or female, voted to start debate. All the Democrats – before Reid’s tactical switch – and both independents voted for it. One Republican, Mark Kirk of Illinois, was absent. As a result of the vote, the GOP may pay at the polls this fall, Rosenblatt told Press Associates Union News Service.

“The fight continues. Equal pay is not something we’re going to let die,” she stated. “Discrimination and economic inequities is not something we’re going to live with. This is an important issue on which to evaluate candidates.”

Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., – a feisty former social worker who is the longest-serving woman ever in Congress – and other male and female Democrats pushed the Paycheck Fairness Act. It would ban employer discipline or firing of workers who ask questions about wages, allow triple damages for pay discrimination violations, and narrow the scope of excuses that employers use to justify pay discrimination.

The legislation is designed to put some teeth into a 1962 equal pay law, at a time when women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, in median income. The gap is 89 cents per dollar, federal data shows, when women are unionized.

The Paycheck Fairness Act has also been marooned in the House for more than a decade.  Its author there, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said in an op-ed on June 5 that “study after study from economists, experts and the Government Accountability Office demonstrated that women are being paid less than their male colleagues for the same work across age, occupation and education level.”

And the pay gap “hurts the two-thirds of families where women are breadwinners or co-breadwinners,” she added.

Republicans have been accused of conducting a “war on women” because of their constant attacks on women’s health, economic and equal rights, including changing the definition of rape, cuts to public nutritional and educational programs for women and children, and of course the Republican’s favorite target: abortion.

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney refused to speak out in support of the equal pay bill.



Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.