Today is Equal Pay Day, the day which marks how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year. President John Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, yet the wage gap between men and women is narrowing by less than half a percent per year. In 2006, women earned only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. African American women earn just 63 cents on the dollar, and Hispanic American women fare worse, at 52 cents. In addition, Senator Kennedy released a report last week showing the current economic downturn is hitting women especially hard. In the last year, the unemployment rate among adult women workers increased 20% compared with a 17% increase among adult men and the real median wage for adult women workers dropped 3% while wages for adult male workers dropped by.5%.
The 110th Congress is working to close the pay gap between women and men. Currently, two of the key initiatives in this area are the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act restores basic protection against pay discrimination, by rectifying the May 2007 Ledbetter v Goodyear Supreme Court decision that overturned precedent and made it much more difficult for workers to pursue pay discrimination claims. The bill simply restores the longstanding interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and other discrimination statutes, thereby protecting women and other workers. The House passed this bill on July 31, 2007 and this week, the Senate will take up the House-passed version of the bill. The Paycheck Fairness Act strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by providing more effective remedies to women who are not being paid equal wages for doing equal work.
Watch an informative video from the Education and Labor Committee:
Speaker Pelosi on Equal Pay Day:
This weekend, we cheered on Danica Patrick when she made history as the first woman to take home first prize winnings from an Indy Car race. And last year, for the first time in history, Wimbledon awarded equal prize money for its prestigious men and women's tennis tournaments.
But a few breakthroughs for women in the world of sports are not nearly enough to rectify an inequity that puts women at severe economic risk.
On Equal Pay Day, we commemorate the point in the year it takes a woman to make the same amount of money made by a man in the previous year. Women make 77 cents to each man's dollar. African American women earn just 63 cents on the dollar, and Hispanic American women fare worse, at 52 cents. As women grow older, the wage gap widens: women aged 45 to 64, who preparing for retirement, earn only 71 percent of what men do. At the rate this gap has been closing over time, the Institute for Women's Policy Research estimates equity will not be achieved until 2057. We do not have the time to wait.
Tomorrow, the Senate will vote on whether to take up the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which the House proudly passed last year. This critical legislation provides a remedy for women and men who have been victims of pay discrimination.
As families grapple with an uncertain economy, equal pay for equal work is about daily survival for millions. The unemployment rate for women workers has increased more rapidly than for men. Women are more likely to have subprime mortgages and be affected by the foreclosure crisis. Many low-wage women workers are the sole source of support for their families and closing the pay disparity could strengthen their households.
Making history is critical for women, but so is making ends meet. Working women and their families do not need any more obstacles in that effort. Women deserve equal pay for equal work.
Madam Speaker, I rise to call attention to Equal Pay Day.
This is the day when the average wages of a female worker catch up to the average wages of a male worker during the previous year. That's right, the Equal Pay Act was signed into law by President Kennedy in 1963, yet here we are in 2008 and women still earn only 77 cents to every dollar a man earns.
When women earn less, their entire family suffers. When we allow women to be paid unequal wages for equal work, we as a society are tolerating discrimination. That is why we must take action to close the wage gap, and treat all workers equally.
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court's decision last year in Ledbetter v. Goodyear further compounded the difficulties that already face working women and their families due to pay inequity. In a deeply flawed decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a worker must file a charge of pay discrimination within 180 days of an employer's initial decision to pay someone less for discriminatory reasons. This clearly went against the intent of the Civil Rights Act and I was proud that the House acted quickly to correct this misguided decision by passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which provides more effective remedies to women who are not being paid equal wages for doing equal work.
This week, the Senate will consider this important legislation — how fitting that it occurs during the same week as Equal Pay Day.
I urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act immediately and urge the President to quickly sign it into law for the benefit of millions of hard working women and their families.