The Young Politica: Why the Paycheck Fairness Act Will Narrow the Wage Gap

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.mikulkski

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?

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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?

 

 

Maegan Vazquez, a Texas born sophomore at New York University, brings her young woman’s lens on all things political to Heartfeldt Blog every Monday. Send news tips to maeganvaz@gmail.com

POLITICO Arena: What would you ask the candidates?

Get into the act! What question do you want to ask the candidates?  Post your comments here.

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Arena Asks: Eight Republican presidential hopefuls are gearing up to take the stage tonight for the POLITICO/NBC News debate – the first major faceoff as campaign season kicks into high gear.

If you were a moderator at tonight’s debate, what would you ask the candidates and why?

My Answer: You see government as the problem. Yet you want to be not just part of it but to lead it. How would you create public confidence in its elected officials and public servants after you have you have built your candidacy on making them the enemy?

(Follow up question: how will you make up for the broadscale elimination of public sector jobs caused by your policies?)

Many Democrats and Independents would agree with you that the government is the problem when it comes to social issues you espouse, such as making abortion illegal, eliminating women’s health care such as routine family planning from insurance plans, and intruding on medical practice with gag rule measures that tell doctors what they can or cannot say to patients. Please explain why you support these measures while promising to get government out of people’s lives.

(Follow up question: These measures are all aimed at exerting government power over women’s lives. Yet you don’t support measures like Paycheck Fairness to give women an equal shot at economic self-sufficiency. How in the world do you justify that?)


Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.