Last month on April 24, this great nation commemorated Equal Pay Day, a day dedicated to highlighting the need for equal pay for workers across America.
In 1963 President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law, which required that men and women be given equal pay for equal work. However, 34 years after the passage of this landmark piece of legislation, inequality is still an obstacle for many hard-working Americans. Equal Pay Day reminds us that in spite of the declaration of independence, in spite of the constitution, in spite of the civil rights laws, women are still being discriminated against when it comes to equality of pay.
Since the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, the wage gap between men and women has only been closing at a slow rate. In 1963, when the Equal Pay Act was signed, women who worked full-time, year-round, made 59 cents on average for every dollar earned by men. In 2006, women earned 76 and a half cents for every dollar men earned, a disparity of 23 and a half cents. No disrespect intended, and in a sense of hyperbole, I don't know a man worth 23 and a half cents more than a woman. As bad as this is, the details are worse. The empirical data is shameful, disgraceful, dishonorable, and downright sinful.
According to a report released by the American Association of University Educated Women, women make only 80 percent of the salaries their male peers do one year after college. The study also shows that after 10 years in the workforce, the gap between men's and women's pay widens even further. It is shameful for high school male teachers to earn an average pay of $49,660 per year, while their female counterparts earn $42,848 per year -- with the same tenure and credentials. It's disgraceful for male marketing and sales managers to earn an average pay of $74,932 per year while their female counterparts earn $46,696 per year. It's dishonorable for male physicians to earn an average pay of $97,448 per year while their female counterparts earn $50,856 per year.
Although the Equal Pay Act of 1963 required that men and women be given equal pay for equal work, many hard-working American women and their families are still adversely affected by the wage gap. All working Americans, regardless of their gender, deserve the right to earn equal pay for equal work. Inequality in the work place is not a partisan issue, it is an American issue. This is an issue that impacts the foundation of our nation and the strength of our families.
We cannot allow wage inequity to persist while we can and should do something about it. As Dr. King once said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." Pay disparity between men and women is definitely an issue that matters. It is an issue that strikes at the core of the American values of honest pay for an honest days work.
We must do all that we can to eliminate this unfair treatment and move towards closing the wage gap for American women. We can and should pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963. We owe it to the women we know and love, as well as our country.
Al Green is a Democratic U.S. Representative from Texas