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Congressman Charles Rangel's picture

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I am proud to support President Barack Obama's executive orders to promote and protect equal pay for women. The first executive order would protect federal employees who share salary information with one another. The second executive order will instruct the Secretary of Labor to create regulations requiring federal contractors to disclose salary information. This will ensure women start receiving the same legal protections against pay discrimination currently provided to protect against pay discrimination based on race and ethnicity. I have been fighting to get these protections passed for years and I am excited to see them finally enacted.

As a long time advocate for women's rights, I am encouraged by the progress we have made in the past few decades. Currently, women make up 58 percent of college graduates, 28.7 percent of business owners, and 18.5 percent of congressional representatives. I am very proud to say that Bronx County, parts of which are in my district, has the highest percentage of women-owned businesses in the nation. There is no doubt that we are have made amazing progress as a society, but there is so much more to be done.

The President and I believe that equal pay for equal work is about basic fairness: During the Mad Men era, women were 38 percent of the labor force and earned 59 cents for every dollar a man earned. Today women make up 47 percent of the labor force and they only earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. Paying women less than men for doing the same work is not just immoral, it is bad economics. As of 2012, 40 percent of households with children under 18 had women as the primary earner. When women bring home less money each day, it means they have less for the everyday needs of their families. My home state of New York is not exempt from these national trends.

The average woman in New York State earns 84 cents to every dollar earned by a man. While the women of New York State may receive a more equitable wage, they also make up a larger percentage of primary wage earners. 63 percent of working mothers bring in more than a quarter of their family's income; this is way above the 40 percent national average. New York State has over a million female headed households; 26 percent of those households are below the poverty line. It is unconscionable not to take steps to close the wage gap when it would lift so many families out of poverty.

There have been many positive laws passed to lift families out of poverty and improve the economic status of women. New York City recently passed a bill that entitles all city workers to one week of paid sick leave. This is an enormous relief for parents who can now stay home with a sick child and not have to worry about how they will pay their bills. The Earned Income Tax Credit benefits 10 million people each year and is one of the most effective programs for lifting women and children out of poverty. That is why I fought to get the EITC passed and why I will always try to extend and defend it. Every program created that benefits women brings us one step closer to true equality.

We cannot accept one half of America's population being treated as second class. When women are given the wages they are owed, it will strengthen American families and the American economy. Women's issues are America's issues. When women succeed, America succeeds.

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