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New Developments in Fight for Equal Pay

The Clinton Administration, labor unions, Senator Tom Harkin, and women’s rights groups are all strategizing on how to make pay equity a top priority among legislators.

Yesterday, the AFL-CIO released a report stating that women are still largely confined to low-pay, female-dominated jobs and earn only 74 cents for every dollars that a man earns. The report found that, by improving the enforcement of existing equal pay laws, the number of single women living in poverty would decline from 25.3% to 12.6%.

In addition to reporting these and other findings, the AFL-CIO announced the launch of campaigns to pass comparable-worth bills in 24 states. Karen Nussbaum, who heads the union’s Working Women’s department, stated, “Even though we have an Equal Pay Act making it illegal to pay women less than men in the same job, it isn’t adequately enforced, and most women are not covered because they’re in female-dominated jobs, so there’s no man around to compare themselves with. These new bills would strengthen enforcement and expand the notion of equal pay to work of equal value.”

Many Democrats, including Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, have long supported the notion of comparable worth. Harkin introduced the Federal Fair Pay Act in 1996 and continues his efforts to pass the bill. The Clinton Administration has pledged to help gain support for the Act, and has dispatched White House Chief of Staff John Podesta and others to strategize with Harkin. President Clinton also discussed the issue of pay equity in his January 30th radio address and has proposed $14 million Labor Department initiative to help end sex-based wage and job discrimination.

Calculate how much money women lose over a lifetime using the AFL-CIO Working Women Department’s Equal Pay Web site at http://www.aflcio.org/women/.

Sources:

New York Times and The Boston Globe - February 25, 1999

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