Senate Republicans defeat women’s equal pay bill, again
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., has long worked to put real teeth into the Equal Pay Act. Senate Republicans have again torpedoed the effort. | Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call via AP

WASHINGTON—By a party-line 50-49 vote, every Senate Republican—even the women—defeated HR7, the bill to put teeth into the Equal Pay Act that helps working women. All 47 voting Democrats backed it, as did both independents. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., was absent from the 6:42 pm vote on June 8. It was the fourth time the Senate Republicans beat the bill over the years.

The GOP phalanx’s success meant senators couldn’t even debate the Paycheck Fairness Act, HR7, which the Democratic-run House approved earlier this year. Instead, the GOP filibuster threat prevailed. The 50-50 Senate needs 60 votes to shut off such talkathon threats.

The loss is in line with Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell’s blockade of all Democratic legislation, and his embrace of both the corporate class agenda and of Trumpism. Republicans follow the Kentuckian’s orders like sheep.

Unions and women’s groups strongly supported the legislation, authored, as usual, by influential Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. It would put teeth into the almost 60-year-old Equal Pay Act by eliminating corporate excuses for discriminating against women in pay. Instead, firms would have to prove unequal pay is not due to prejudice against women workers.

It also would make it easier for wronged women workers to find out, in broad categories, what their privileged male colleagues with the same credentials earn, and to sue if their pay isn’t equal.

Organized labor and women’s groups strongly supported the measure. So did Senate Democrats, led by Senate Labor Committee Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the only two who spoke before the vote. The GOP shut up.

“The Paycheck Fairness Act is a long overdue remedial measure that responds to the demonstrated inadequacies of the 1963 Equal Pay Act,” AFL-CIO Legislative Director Bill Samuel wrote lawmakers before the roll call.

“Although the Equal Pay Act made it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to male and female employees who perform the same work, wage disparities between men and women persist in both the private and public sectors, at every educational level,” nationwide.

“Women working full time are paid only 82 cents for every dollar paid to men, and this gap is greater for women of color. Without intervention, the wage gap between all men and women is not expected to close until 2059 and will take significantly longer for Black and Latina women.

“While belonging to a union is the surest way to guarantee equal pay on the job—unionized women earn some 27% more than do their non-union counterparts—the Paycheck Fairness Act would provide new effective tools to close the wage gap,” he said.

“Continuing to shortchange working women undercuts their ability not only to recover from the pandemic, but also to build financial security for themselves, their families, and their communities over their careers,” DeLauro said in part after the result was announced. “The House passed this legislation for the fourth time in April, yet Senate Republicans again failed to listen to their constituents and grant women this basic right: equal pay for equal work.”

Murray called the GOP anti-woman stand “completely ridiculous and a total disgrace.” And the women in each state—more than half of those lawmakers’ constituents—“will have to bear the consequences.

“Today’s vote is only going to motivate women across the country to fight harder to get this bill done. And I’m one of them,” she declared.


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.