Tues 4/2: Today is EQUAL PAY DAY! “YES” on H.R. 7 – the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Thank our legislators, or thank them again if they’re already supporters! Have a chat with those who aren’t. (Scripts below) Depending on race and state, women can earn $1 million less than men over a 40-year career.

Action  – “YES” on H.R. 7/S.270 – The “Paycheck Fairness Act”

Yes, Virginia, there is still a wage gap. When you grow up, no matter how good you are, no matter how hard you work, you will still be paid less than a male. How dreary your retirement will be! What seems like a small difference between your paycheck and that of the guy playing computer games at the next desk over, really adds up to a huge loss for you over a lifetime of working! Skeptical minds have stopped progress for a long time, letting misogyny and injustice abound. Only political activism can push aside that curtain of discrimination between you and the financial stability of equal pay. Otherwise, a thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, pay discrimination will continue to blight the futures of girls like you.”

Embed from Getty Images
Women have demanded what they wanted in the past and gotten it! Female garment workers in Cincinnati sell newspapers to support their fellow workers in the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, who are striking in New York, circa 1910.

And yes, it does add up. According to the National Women’s Law Center, a black woman, typically stands to lose $946,120 over her career to the wage gap and would need to work 26 years longer than her male counterpart to make up that lost money. What? Oh, wait, here’s a chart!

  Annual losses to the 2017 wage gap Career losses to the 2017 wage gap
Asian women $9,010 $360,400
Black women $23,653 $946,120
Native women $24,443 $977,720
Latinx women $28,386 $1,135,440

Virginia, Democratic legislators have tried to fix the loopholes that allow this discrimination, but the GOP, including women GOP legislators (!!!?!), have stood in the way. No, the two parties are not the same at all.


Minimal script for Democrats: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want to thank Rep./Sen. [___] for cosponsoring on H.R. 7 / S.270– “The Paycheck Fairness Act.

Minimal script for almost every GOP member: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want to ask Rep./Sen [___] why your party has participated in years of financial oppression of women? Please do better for us, for our daughters and granddaughters. You have one more chance. Cosponsor and vote “YES” on H.R. 7 / S.270 – “The Paycheck Fairness Act.

Rep-check H.R. 7 here. Both Reps. Carbajal and Brownley are cosponsors. 238 Democrats have cosponsored as well, along with 1 GOP member, Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ-4).

Sen-check S.270 here. Both  Sens. Feinstein and Harris are cosponsors. Sen. Angus King (I-ME) and Sen. Sanders (I-VT) have also signed on. There are currently no GOP cosponsors.

Rep. Julia Brownley: email, (CA-26): DC (202) 225-5811, Oxnard (805) 379-1779, T.O. (805) 379-1779
or Rep. Salud Carbajal: email. (CA-24): DC (202) 225-3601, SB (805) 730-1710 SLO (805) 546-8348
Senator Feinstein: email, DC (202) 224-3841, LA (310) 914-7300, SF (415) 393-0707, SD (619) 231-9712, Fresno (559) 485-7430
Senator Harris: email, DC (202) 224-3553, LA (213) 894-5000, SAC (916) 448-2787, Fresno (559) 497-5109, SF (415) 355-9041, SD (619) 239-3884
Who is my federal representative?: hq-salsa.wiredforchange.com


Despite the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the  Equal Pay Act of 1963Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009,  there remains at least a 20-percent salary gap between male and female workers in the U.S, in both the private and governmental sectors, even when studies control for the key factors that influence earnings. In many instances, the pay disparities can only be due to continued intentional discrimination or the lingering effects of past discrimination.  The disparity hurts women, children, families and our economy. Why is this?

The Equal Pay Act

The Equal Pay Act (EPA), passed in 1963 as an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act, “prohibits discrimination on account of sex in the payment of wages by employers.” Specifically, the EPA provides that employers may not pay unequal wages to men and women who perform substantially equal jobs and work at the same establishment. However, it PERMITS unequal pay for equal work if it is the result of wages being set according to: 1) a seniority system; 2) a merit system; 3) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or 4) any factor other than sex, which could mean “better salary-negotiation skills or that the applicant reported having received a higher salary at a previous job.” These four circumstances create a huge defense against claims of wage discrimination and especially when comparative salary history is deliberately hidden from potential plaintiffs.

Dr. Linda Brodsky, a doctor in a NY hospital and a fully tenured professor, realized a less senior male employee was being compensated twice what she was. Though she ultimately prevailed against her university, she says the system of litigation for something that should be required of employers is “an outrage.” “Why should I have to be the person who discovers the problem, polices the system, spends a fortune to get my day in court, when the employer can outspend me easily? I think that, like with OSHA, employers should have to prove that they are abiding by the law and that they have fair labor practices.

Title VII of the Civil Right Act

Title VII of the Civil Right Act, a statute prohibiting employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion, added the requirement that plaintiffs must prove that the employers acted with discriminatory intent. However,  much of the discrimination in today’s workplace is not intentional but fueled by unconscious gender stereotypes, such as how closely workers align with stereotypical behavior for men and women. For example, a study involving over 400 managers showed that when asked to award performance bonuses based on fictional profiles of equally talented candidates, they gave higher bonuses to those designated as male. Economists have found that discrimination feeds as much as 38% of the gender gap.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act added another twist as the result of a bizarre technical decision the Supreme Court made in 2007, overturning a case Lilly Ledbetter won under Title VII regulations. She learned anonymously that she had been paid 15-40% less than her male counterparts over her multi-year career and had won a judgement of $3.5 million against her employer, Goodyear Tire and Rubber. They appealed, reasoning that statute of limitations had run out on her claim – she should have filed a pay-discrimination complaint 20 years ago, or 180 days after receiving her first discriminatory paycheck. The Supreme Court agreed, 5-4, but didn’t address how she could have known she was being paid less than her male counterparts six months after she was hired by a company that fired people for sharing salary information. The Ledbetter Act changed the statute of limitations for filing a wage discrimination claim to reset with each discriminatory paycheck. Other than than, it retained all other aspects of employment-discrimination law, which included the original loopholes of the EPA. It didn’t even address the employer black-out on salary information that was responsible for Ms. Ledbetter’s pay disparity in the first place.

The pay-gap remains – is it because of the babies?

The pay-gap remains and as you saw in the top chart, is huge for women of color. Pay-gap skeptics say that it’s womens’ fault – they choose to go into low-paying and “flexible” professions to take care of children, which is related to our inability to figure out child care and maternity leave like all the other first world countries. “A woman earning the median salary for younger full-time, full-year workers—$30,253 annually in 2014—who takes five years off at age 26 for caregiving would lose $467,000 over her working career, reducing her lifetime earnings by 19 percent.”

However, the pay gap starts before the “family scenario”, in fact, it starts immediately after college, with recent college graduates earning 82% of male counterparts with equal job duties, and a 74% pay gap exists for full-time professional women with advanced degrees, and it is also drastically different between states.

The pay-gap remains – is it because of the job?

Even in traditional “women’s professions”, women make less than men. Wait a minute,  what?

gender ratio

And women can’t game the system by going into “male” professions, because “…the perceived worth of a job depends on which of the two sexes holds it, that society views professions occupied mostly by women as of less value —and so do employers; hence when women start filling a job, its value decreases. The study suggests that it is devaluation that explains the drop in pay as more women enter a profession.”

What do we do now?

The wage gap, at the very best, has stalled out at 80 cents on the dollar, and until the loopholes in pay equity are addressed, it may not close until 2059, according to a related IWPR analysis of trends in earnings since 1960.

The Proposed Paycheck Fairness Act has been proposed repeatedly since 1997 and again in 1999, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015  and 2017. Each time it was proposed by Democrats and defeated by the GOP, ( including women who get mandated equal pay), who apparently don’t care about the career aspirations of their daughters and granddaughters.

Short name Congressional session Specific bills
Paycheck Fairness Act 105th Congress H.R. 2023, S. 71
Paycheck Fairness Act 106th Congress H.R. 541, H.R. 2397, S. 74
Paycheck Fairness Act 107th Congress H.R. 781, S. 77
Paycheck Fairness Act 108th Congress H.R. 1688, S. 76
Paycheck Fairness Act 109th Congress H.R. 1687, S. 841
Paycheck Fairness Act 110th Congress H.R. 1338, S. 766
Paycheck Fairness Act 111th Congress H.R. 12, S. 182, S. 3772
Paycheck Fairness Act 112th Congress H.R. 1519, S. 797, S. 3220
Paycheck Fairness Act 113th Congress H.R. 377, S. 84, S. 2199
Paycheck Fairness Act 114th Congress H.R. 1619, S. 862
Paycheck Fairness Act 115th Congress H.R. 1869, S. 819

Stopping this discrimination solves issues that affect many aspects of our economy:

  • It reduces the number of women who must depend on public assistance to augment low wages.
  • It stabilizes families who rely on the wages of all members of the family to make ends meet.
  • It prevents women from realizing their full economic potential, which also undermines their retirement security, often based on earnings while in the workforce.
  • It constitutes an unfair method of competition in commerce, which interferes with the orderly and fair marketing of goods

What this law does:

  • It closes loopholes in the Equal Pay Act
  • Protects employees from retaliation from discussing their pay.
  • Limits the use of salary history in the hiring process. Many women are underpaid to start out, they’ll carry these depressed wages throughout their career and into retirement.
  • It requires the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to collect compensation data from employers, helping increase pay transparency and uncover pay discrimination.
  • Equalizes equal-pay-for-equal-work regulations to all states. Salary history bans already exist in 7 states. (CA, DE, OR, PR, CT, HA, VE)
  • The law would also develop salary-negotiation training programs for women.

Call your legislators and promise them an early retirement from the halls of Congress, if they continue to obstruct this bill. There are no excuses.




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