It’s National Pay Equity Day: Make Paycheck Fairness the Law

Cross-posted at The Huffington Post

By Rep. Rosa DeLauro

Among the many great benefits of the common-sense health reform package we passed last month is a guarantee that finally in America, being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition. As we bring an end to discriminatory policies like gender rating and begin to ensure coverage for maternity, preventive, and wellness care, our health legislation at long last puts our mothers’ and sisters’ and daughters’ health care on equal footing with our fathers’ and brothers’ and sons’.

It is time, now, with your help, to do the same for women’s earnings.

We showed with health reform that we can still accomplish great things in Congress, even if our party is forced to go it alone. I cannot think of a better way to follow this historic success than finally signing the Paycheck Fairness Act into law. Sign the petition today and tell my colleagues in the Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

This issue is particularly relevant today, on National Pay Equity Day, but I have been working on the issue of pay equity for women since I was elected to Congress twenty years ago. In fact, I first put forth this paycheck fairness legislation in June of 1997! But now that the bill has passed the House of Representatives – twice – we are closer than ever before to getting this done.

It is about time. Unbelievably, right now, in the 21st century, women make only 78 cents on the dollar as compared to men. Women of color are even worse off – African American women make 68 cents on the dollar compared to the highest earners, while Hispanic women make only 57 cents. Unmarried women have an average annual household salary that is almost $12,000 lower than unmarried men, and they make a paltry 56 cents on the dollar when compared to married men.

Over a lifetime, these disparities take a huge toll on women. According to the National Committee for Pay Equity, women are losing out on between $400,000 and $2 million on average over the course of a lifetime. As a result, 70 percent of seniors living in poverty are women.

This pay disparity is particularly galling when you consider the current crisis in our labor markets. It is true that more men have lost jobs than women in this recent recession, mainly because of the industries affected. But that only means that more and more women are forced to take on the full burden of keeping their families afloat, making the problem of that smaller paycheck even more acute.

Congress passed the original Equal Pay Act in 1963 to end the “serious and endemic problem” of unequal wages. Forty-seven years later, it is clear that the Act in its current form has not done enough to fix the problem. We have a moral obligation to face this continuing pay inequity head-on.

Right here, right now, we need to act. Like never before, we need to push to get this done. Recently, I testified before the Senate’s HELP Committee on this legislation, and I am writing to report that the conditions are finally right to achieve pay equity in America. We are on the cusp of achieving real economic security for over 50% of the American workforce and their families. With your enthusiasm, your tenacity, and your support, I believe we can see paycheck fairness pass this Congress.

The passage of health reform has shown that American government can still accomplish great things, and that we can still make this country a more compassionate, and more humane place for all our people–a place where economic opportunity is a reality for all Americans. Now, let us finally ensure that America’s women – now half of the nation’s workforce – are treated as fairly and equitably as the other half. Let’s give real teeth to the Equal Pay Act at last.

Celebrate National Pay Equity Day! Sign the petition and tell my colleagues in the Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. We can’t do it without you!

Rosa DeLauro

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