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Equal Pay Should Be A Priority

A Message from the MCEA President

Recently, and for the second time in two years, Republicans in the Senate united against a measure that would have made it easier for women to receive equal pay for equal work.

President Barack Obama urged the Senate to pass this measure, saying,

"I don't have to tell you how much this matters to families across the country. All of you are working day in, day out, to support the basic principle, equal pay for equal work... Cpongress has to step up and do its job. Women are the breadwinners for a lot of families, and if they're making less than men do for the same work, families are going to have to get by with less money for childcare andtuition and rent... Everybody suffers."

Nevertheless, the Senate voted 52 to 47 not to open debate on this legislation--eight votes short of the 60 votes required.

Lilly Ledbetter, the woman whose name was attached to a 2009 bill that ensured equal pay for women, witnessed the vote from the Senate gallery.

The Lilly Ledbetter act changed the statute of limitations on equal pay lawsuits. The most recent bill would have strengthened the Ledbetter act by stoppin gcompanies from retaliating against workers who ask about pay disparities.

The recent bill also would have made it easier for women to sue for punitive damages in cases where they had been discriminated against. Two years ago, the same bill failed in the Senate when no Repulbicans supported it.

IOmagine! Not enough people in the United States Senate believe that women should receive equal pay when they do the same job a man does. Not enough people in the United States Senate believe that a woman ought to be able to sue her employer when she finds out that she has been discriminated against--given less pay when doing the same job as a male co-worker.

Of course, opponents of the bill argues that discrimination based on gender is unacceptable, bu tthat the legislation before them, the Paycheck Fairness Act, would not really address inequality in the workplace. These legislators said that the Paycheck Fairnes Act would creat lawsuits and compliance problems that would hurt small businesses.

But if women cannot ask about pay fairness without bein gpunished by their employers, and if they cannot sue those who discriminate against them, what are they to do when they find out that they are the victims of unfair pay practices?

It has been widely reported that women make about 77 cents for every dollar a male worker makes. The rate drops even lower for minorities: 64 cents for African-American women and to 56 cents for Latinas.  This explains the gap between the annual earnings between men and women. According to the recent findings of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, based on mdeian hourly pay, women make about 86 percent of what men make.

When presidential candidate, Mitt Romney was asked about this issue, his campaign spokesperson state, "We'll get back to you on that."

In other words, the presidential candidate either has no position on the matter or he is reluctant to say what his position is.

Fair minded people agree that equal pay for equal work is a principle that must be upheld in American society. The Senate's recent action that prevents this concept from being applied effe ctively in law is shameful.

When the Paycheck Fairness Act failed to pass, President Obama said,

"It is incredibly disappointing that in this make-or-break moment for the middle class, Senate Republicans put partisan politics ahead of American women and their families."

Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski said, "It's a very sad day in the United States Senate."

I couldn't agree more.

President Linda Day
August 2012

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