Paycheck Fairness Act Fails
This afternoon the Paycheck Fairness Act failed in the Senate with a vote of 52-47. This vote to proceed with consideration of the legislation was a chance to make real progress toward economic justice, and its outcome is beyond disappointing.
As a young woman, I find it to be theoretically offensive and practically unacceptable that women are significantly underpaid for their participation in the workforce. Forty percent of women are the primary breadwinners in their households and, on average, women earn only 77 cents for every dollar that men do. Moreover, minorities suffer from a far greater wage disparity.
The argument that women’s “choices” are to blame for unequal pay is simply an excuse. Studies by the U.S. Government Accountability Office have found that even when career and family composition are accounted for, there is still a significant gap in earnings between men and women. In fact, even when women make the same career and family choices as men, they still earn less money. Furthermore, one year out of college (when most women are putting career first and have not stepped away from the workforce to raise families), women earn only 80% of what their male colleagues do.
Many have critiqued the timing of a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act as a way to force Republicans to vote on a women’s issue at the height of the Presidential election season. But there have been consistent initiatives to pass legislation that would even the playing field for women in the workplace over the past three years, first with the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Act in 2009 (the first bill that President Obama signed into law) and then with the House of Representatives’ passing of the Paycheck Fairness Act that same month.
We read in the Torah, “You shall not defraud your neighbor, nor rob him; the wages of he who is hired shall not remain with you all night until the morning” (Leviticus 19:13). Today, the Senate had a chance to fix the current system that defrauds women by paying them lower wages for the same work performed by men with similar credentials and making it difficult for those women to effectively fight back. Instead, Senators succumbed to “politics as usual.”
We’ll continue to work for the passage of legislation that ensures women receive equal pay for equal work, but today is certainly a sad one in our nation’s capital.