Advocacy and Public Policy Newsletter ~ November 2010
Healing the Battle Wounds, Preparing for War
It is a wonder how some politicians can claim to be serving the interests of the people and yet still vote to defeat a measure that would promote parity among working Americans. The Paycheck Fairness Act would have closed the loopholes in the Equal Pay Act by allowing employees to discuss one another’s wages and salaries and mandating transparency for the existing pay discrepancies between men and women. On the morning of November 17th, Senators faced a vote to determine if the Paycheck Fairness Act should be brought up for debate. This means that Senators opposing and supporting the bill would have an opportunity to give speeches and discuss the merits of the measure on the floor. If 60 or more Senators had voted for this, they would have been able to debate the issues and finally hold another vote to pass the bill or defeat it. Unfortunately, it never got to this point because only 58 Senators voted to debate the measure on the floor, so it was never discussed and was defeated by a deliberate and procedural strategy. It makes sense that those opposed to the Paycheck Fairness Act refused to debate on this issue, because as director of public policy and government relations at AAUW Lisa Maatz points out, “they can’t win a fair fight against pay equity.” But it is a shame to consider that just two Senators, (perhaps Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe from Maine?) could have made the difference if they put party politics aside and voted for a measure that would level the playing field for working women and their families.
The opponents of the bill which include all Senate Republicans, one Democrat and the US Chamber of Commerce, argue that there is no need for the Paycheck Fairness Act because it is already illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender for wages and salary. However, the federal government has done research to investigate the wage gap and their data shown that it still exists. The recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) “Women Management: Analysis of Female Managers’ Representation, Characteristics, and Pay”maintains that after controlling for hours worked, part-time status and other relevant variables, across the board women still make less than their male counterparts for doing the same amount of work. It is clear from these data and other research that gender discrimination in salary and wage determination is still an issue, and there is more work to be done if we are to achieve parity.
The coalition for Paycheck Fairness will not give up on this issue when the 112th Congress convenes. Although it will be difficult, we have President Obama on our side, whomet with members of the coalition last week to lament the failure of the bill and boost morale for the next step. He has also pledged to hire 200 new investigators and form an Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force to help enforce the current laws mandating equal pay. Senate Democrats say they want to reintroduce the Paycheck Fairness Act in the new Congress, hoping to recruit some of their colleagues from across the aisle to help women achieve fair pay. Considering that women make up at least half the voting population, it would be in the best interest of those deciding members of Congress to consider passing this important piece of legislation.