Last week, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would allow employees to discuss their salary information without the fear of companies pursuing legal action against them.
The bill is on its third try. In a 2010 senate vote, the bill failed to get any Republican support, even by the female Republican Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME), who all voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Act.
According to Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the Fair Pay Act will:
• Amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to prohibit discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, race or national origin;
• Require employers to give equal pay for jobs that are comparable in skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions;
• Prohibit companies from reducing other employees’ wages to achieve pay equity;
• Require public disclosure of employer job categories and pay scales, without requiring specific information on individual employees; and
• Allow payment of different wages under a seniority system, merit system, or system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production.
The bill makes perfect sense—give all female workers a chance to see what their equal male counterparts are earning, and see if it matches up without getting sued by employers. In an economy where women earn some 33% less than males, why wouldn’t politicians see this as a good measure for ensuring equal rights?
Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) summed it up best back in June 2012:
“Where are these women supposed to go? What are they supposed to do? Have an appointment with their congressman? Show the congressman their paycheck?”
The split seems to stem from complications that might affect employers. Crisitina Hoff Sommers, author of “Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women,” cites market forces as the difference in pay for similar jobs—like a business school professor (a male-dominated field) vs. a social work professor (a female-dominated field). Sommers argues that the gender theory behind the bill sees the higher wages as part of society’s sexist attitudes. “Under the bill, it’s not enough for an employer to guard against intentional discrimination,” Sommers said. “It also has to police potentially discriminatory assumptions behind market-driven wage disparities that have nothing to do with sexism. ”
Political opponents of the bill said that it could bring excessive litigation of the small business community. However, this excess litigation seems like a poor excuse on behalf of the Republican party.
Even if it were true, it seems like litigation is a small price to pay for a large boost in the economy and large boost for most middle-class Americans. Sommers’ argument presents me with a question: how do we value work today and is that how we should be valuing work when fighting for equal rights among both genders? Is it any surprise that we monetarily value a maid, a female-dominated work position, less than we value a janitor, a male-dominated work position, despite the fact that they both have similar jobs?
This bill is not radical legislation. It should not even be a topic of controversy among opposing parties. It helps facilitate equal rights among Americans. Who could possibly be against that?