US Senate Committee Hearing on Paycheck Fairness Act

The US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held a hearing yesterday on the Paycheck Fairness Act and the wage gap. The Paycheck Fairness Act was the first bill, along with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, to be passed by the current House of Representatives. If passed in the Senate and signed into law, it would deter wage discrimination by closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and by barring retaliation against workers who disclose their wages. There are currently 36 Senate co-sponsors. During the hearing, Committee Chaiir, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), said in his statement: “This wage gap exists in every segment of our society. Women of every race and national origin earn less than their counterparts. An African-American woman earns 69 cents for every dollar that a white male earns, while a Latino woman receives only 59 cents for every dollar a white man earns. These differences add up to real hardships for working women and their families.” He continued, “Make no mistake, the wage gap is not just a woman’s issue. It is a family issue. As we will hear today, women represent half of all workers. Millions of families rely on a woman’s pay-check to get by…In many families, the woman is the sole breadwinner. And, during the latest economic downturn, more men have lost jobs than women, making households even more dependent than ever on women’s earnings.” US Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-D) also testified during the hearing. She said, “As the National Committee on Pay Equity tells us, these pay disparities have a substantial long-term impact on women’s lifetime earnings, costing anywhere from $400,000 to $2 million over a lifetime. And that lack of pay equity translates into less income toward calculating pension and in some cases, Social Security benefits. It is no coincidence that 70 percent of older adults living in poverty are women.” US Senator and original co-sponsor of the bill Barbara A. Mikulski (MD-D) testified, “This bill picks up where we left off with [the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act] by improving remedies available to victims of discrimination and preventing employers from retaliating against employees who share pay information. It also closes a loophole in current law by clarifying the acceptable reasons for differences in pay and making this ‘factor defense’ more difficult to use. Finally, the bill increases education and training about wage discrimination so people will know when they are being discriminated against and what they can do about it.”


Senator Harkin’s Statement 3/11/10; Congresswoman DeLauro’s Testimony 3/11/10; Senator Mikulski’s Statement 3/11/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 4/30/09

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