Happy Equal Pay Day!
I agree with those of you who were bothered last week by Hilary Rosen’s statement that ,“Ann Romney never worked a day in her life”. But I think I would have been ok if she only added two words - “for pay”. (That is assuming Ann Romney never has worked outside of her home for pay). Truth is that wealthy women like Ms. Romney have choices and most women who stay home don’t – they can’t afford the costs of working for pay. This is the part of the story that was glossed over. Now that today is “Equal Pay Day”, we can shine a light on the real point that I think Ms. Rosen wanted to address. But first, a story.
My sister Jaye, a college graduate, had her first son at the age of 25. She made a decision to continue working even though the cost of childcare, office attire, gas and other work related expenses were a huge challenge. When she became pregnant with twins – 5 years later, she knew what it would mean. After discovering that the cost of working exceeded her wages, they decided that she would stay home with those beautiful boys until they went to school. Jaye didn’t have a choice. Her wages didn’t pay enough to offset the cost of working. Her husband worked additional hours to make ends meet; they struggled financially, and put off buying a home until she was able to go back to work – for pay. Imagine if she and her husband, earned as much as her white, non-Hispanic male counterparts. – but they didn’t. After 22 years, the boys are graduated from college, and my sister and brother-in-law can dig themselves out of a financial hole that they might not have been in if pay equity existed. This clearly is not Ann Romney’s story.
So, imagine if we had an equal pay law. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families’new Wage Gap fact sheet, women earn .77 cents to a white, non-Hispanic male’s dollar. Black women earn .68, almost $20,000 less per year and Latina women .54, almost $24,000 less per year. I know that pay equity would make a difference to millions of women and families, especially female-headed households. Pay equity determines how much food you can buy, whether you can pay your rent or mortgage, buy clothing, engage in saving or retirement planning, and in some cases it can determine the academic success of your child.
Now that we’ve considered the personal impact, think about the tax dollars that aren’t paid simply because the worker is a woman. In these dire economic times, when State budgets face unprecedented deficits, can our nation really afford a wage gap? We are trying to balance our State and Federal budgets on the backs of women and their families – really? Fairness must prevail.
The Pay Check Fairness Act passed in the House of Representatives in 2010 and 2011 but failed in the Senate. It’s been reintroduced. Adding teeth to the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Pay Check Fairness Act is a deterrent to wage discrimination.
It prohibits employers from enforcing paycheck secrecy – retaliation for sharing your wage information; it makes gender based discrimination equal to other forms of wage discrimination; women can sue for damages in wage discrimination cases; Employers will have to prove that the wage disparity is justified for a job-related reason; it will help women and girls learn negotiation skills; recognizes employers for their good pay practices; provides businesses with technical compliance support and enhances the administration’s ability to investigate and enforce pay discrimination. This is a bill that can change lives.
Our families need the Pay Check Fairness Act. Our State and Federal budgets need the Pay Check Fairness Act. I’m convinced that Hilary Rosen was heading in this direction – had she been given a chance. Click on these fact sheets to learn more about Equal Pay Day and take action to make a difference right now.
To Jaye, Patti, Hilary, Ann, Vibhuti, Netsy, Jenya, the MomsRising Gang, NWLC, my husband and millions of families: “Happy Equal Pay Day” - take some action for equity!
National Policy Director
Labor Project for Working Families