The much heralded and hotly contested mid-term elections are done. The ballot questions have been decided and the candidates are either grateful because they pulled out a win or gloomy because they didn't. Either way, it's time to move on.
It's time now to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Women have been waiting for a very long time. Frankly, we've grown impatient. The moment is here. The U.S. Senate must pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, for the women of today, and for the women of tomorrow.
Since the Equal Pay Act was signed in 1963, the wage gap has been closing at a snail's pace. In 1963, women who worked in full-time, year-round, jobs made 59 cents on average for every dollar earned by men. In 2009, women earned 77 cents to men's dollar. The wage gap has narrowed by less than half a cent per year. For women of color, the gap is even wider, with African American women and Latinas earning only 61 cents and 52 cents, respectively, on the dollar.
The pay gap is evident in almost every occupational category, in every income bracket; it's a constant despite education, despite experience. Although enforcement of the Equal Pay Act and other civil rights laws has helped narrow the gap, it's critical that the significant disparities in pay that remain be addressed. The Paycheck Fairness Act will be an important step to help end those disparities. It must be passed, for the women of today, and for the women of tomorrow.
Consider LaTerrell. She lives in Denver and works in the financial services industry. At one time, she worked as part of a team of three women. Then, Peter, the first male in the department, was hired. He was hired for the exact same job, only Peter didn't have the same qualifications or the same experience. He didn't have the same salary either. He was to be paid more. A supervisor discovered it, and the company decided to give all three women a raise to match Peter's salary. Luckily, someone was paying attention and took action.
But women deal with unequal pay and inequitable salary ladders in all too many professions; something must be done to end it - for the women of today, and for the women of tomorrow. That something is passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act.
The Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 3772) is comprehensive legislation that updates the Equal Pay Act of 1963, strengthens penalties courts may impose for violations of existing equal pay laws, prohibits retaliation against workers who inquire about or share wage information, and empowers women to better negotiate for equal pay.
According to the National Women's Law Center, the pay gap is about much more than fairness, it's about women's and families' bottom-lines; the gap represents $10,622 a year. With that, you could buy a year's worth of groceries ($3,210), arrange for three months of child care ($1,748), pay three months of rent and utilities ($2,265) six months of health insurance ($1,697), cover six months on a student loan ($1,602) -- and buy three full tanks of gas ($100)!
Our U.S. Senate must consider how the pay gap places families of today in jeopardy; at risk, especially in these tough economic times.
But if that doesn't do it, maybe they should consider something else.
They should think about their own daughters, their granddaughters, great-granddaughters. They should think about how they prize them, how they love them, how they treasure them, how they would fight for them. Are they really worth less?
The answer should then be obvious: Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act now, without amendments, in this session. For the good of all women - women of today and of tomorrow - and for the good of our country, it's the right thing to do.
Meric is Executive Director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women.