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This week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he will once again try to bring the Paycheck Fairness Act up for a vote that Republicans unanimously blocked in 2010:

The Paycheck Fairness Act is a logical extension of protections under the Equal Pay Act. It will help close the pay gap by empowering women to negotiate for equal pay and creating strong incentives for employers to obey the laws already in place.
Republicans deny they’re waging a war on women, yet they’ve launched a series of attacks on women’s access to health care and contraception this year.

Now they have an opportunity to back up their excuses with action.

I hope they take that opportunity, and join Democrats as we send a clear message that America values the incredible contributions women make every day.

The wage gap is real. It exists in nearly every single profession. And contrary to Republican claims, it is not just because women choose lower-paying jobs. Or because "money is more important for men." Even in those supposedly lower-paying jobs dominated by women, men still make more. In higher-paying professions, the gap is even worse, hitting CEOs the hardest gap.

Opponents of equal pay laws will argue that more women than men are graduating from college now, so any existing pay gap will eventually even out. But that's not true, because right out of college—before men have accrued more experience, before women have taken years out of the work force to raise families—the wage gap exists. A study by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation found:

Yet, one year after college, female graduates working full time earn only about 80 percent as much as male graduates earn. Among part-time workers, the gap is
larger, with women earning 73 percent as much as their male colleagues earn [...]

Gender segregation in undergraduate majors and the subsequent segregation of the work force partly explain the pay gap. Yet the pay gap within fields of study and occupations suggests that the answer is not so simple. Indeed, after accounting for all factors known to affect wages, about one-quarter of the gap remains unexplained and may be attributed to discrimination.

The wage gap grows as women progress in their careers:
Ten years after graduation, women working full time earn only 69 percent as much as men working full time earn, down from 80 percent one year after graduation [...]

Ten years after graduation, the portion of the gender pay gap that remains unexplained increases from 5 percent to 12 percent. This widening gap cannot be attributed to employment, educational, or personal choices, which suggests that discrimination may worsen over time or that the effects of gender discrimination are cumulative.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was a good start to narrowing the wage gap. But it left some major loopholes that, after a half century, must be closed if we are ever to eliminate wage discrimination. This is why we need to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which will:
  • Close a loophole in affirmative defenses for employers: The legislation clarifies acceptable reasons for differences in pay by requiring employers to demonstrate that wage gaps between men and women doing the same work have a business justification and are truly a result of factors other than sex.
  • Fix the "Establishment" Requirement: The bill would clarify the establishment provision under the Equal Pay Act, which would allow for reasonable comparisons between employees within clearly defined geographical areas to determine fair wages. This provision is based on a similar plan successfully used in the state of Illinois.
  • Prohibit Employer Retaliation: The legislation would deter wage discrimination by prohibiting retaliation against workers who inquire about employers' wage practices or disclose their own wages. (NOTE: Employees with access to colleagues' wage information in the course of their work, such as human resources employees, may still be prohibited from sharing that information.) This non-retaliation provision would have been particularly helpful to Lilly Ledbetter, because Goodyear prohibited employees from discussing or sharing their wages. This policy delayed her discovery of the discrimination by more than a decade.
  • Improve Equal Pay Remedies: The bill would deter wage discrimination by strengthening penalties for equal pay violations. Women would be provided the option to proceed in an opt-out class action suit under the Equal Pay Act, and allowed to receive punitive and compensatory damages for pay discrimination. The bill's measured approach levels the playing field, ensuring that women can obtain the same remedies as those subject to discrimination on the basis of race or national origin. Supporters of fair pay for women should strongly oppose any efforts to cap damages.
  • Increase Training, Research and Education: The legislation would authorize additional training for Equal Employment Opportunity Commission staff to better identify and handle wage disputes. It would also aid in the efficient and effective enforcement of federal anti-pay discrimination laws by requiring the EEOC to develop regulations directing employers to collect wage data reported by the race, sex and national origin of employees. The bill would also require the U.S. Department of Labor to reinstate activities that promote equal pay, such as: directing educational programs, providing technical assistance to employers, recognizing businesses that address the wage gap, and conducting and promoting research about pay disparities between men and women.
    Establish Salary Negotiation Skills-Training: The bill would create a competitive grant program to develop salary negotiation training for women and girls.
  • Improve Collection of Pay Information: The bill would also reinstate the Equal Opportunity Survey. The Survey would enable targeting of the Labor Department's enforcement efforts by requiring all federal contractors to submit data on employment practices such as hiring, promotions, terminations and pay. This survey, first used in 2000, was developed over two decades and three presidential administrations, but was rescinded by the Department of Labor in 2006.
For women to achieve equality, their work must be valued equally too. It is time to fix the flaws of the Equal Pay Act and finally bring an end to wage discrimination.

Tell your senators to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.


This week's good, bad and ugly below the fold.

  • "That women’s rights and health are casualties of Republican policy is indisputable."
  • Arizona Rep. Trent Franks (R-Of course) wants to ban abortion in the District of Columbia. Does he care what the residents of D.C. think? Nope. He won't even let their non-voting representative, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, speak at his subcommittee hearing. So D.C. residents sent him an important message:
    Since Franks appears to be so interested in D.C. affairs, some 50 residents of the district showed up Wednesday in a clever bit of protesting at his office to give him the skinny on what he can do for them since he apparently has spare time from his duties speaking for the people of Arizona's 2nd District.

    Organized by DC Vote, which seeks full representation for D.C. in Congress, and Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, the protesters each spent a few minutes seeking help from "Mayor" Franks in getting potholes repaired, rat infestations exterminated, parking tickets fixed, Washington mass transit fully funded and other matters of local concern dealt with.

  • We don't know for sure that the people who keep attacking this abortion clinic in Georgia are "pro-life" terrorists. Yet.
  • Things that make you go hmmm:
    Mitt Romney's courtship of female voters in his typical campaign speech sounds a bit like a movie's casting call.

    Woman Whose Husband Took an Upholstery Class. Woman Who Is Going Back To College. Woman Who Owns Duplexes.

    Romney's campaign won't identify these women, making it impossible to check the accuracy of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee's accounts.

    Poor Mitt. So far, his "Generic Woman Supports Me" stories aren't doing anything to close that pesky gender gap. Or help Mitt raise money off the lady voters.
  • FAIL:
    Cynthia Dunbar, a former member of the Texas Board of Education who is now a law professor at Liberty University, in her address to the rally made the specious claim that “94% of the quotes of the Founding Fathers contemporaneous to our nation’s founding came either directly or indirectly from the Bible” and maintained that legislators shouldn’t worry about passing the unconstitutional Heartbeat Bill since “Roe v. Wade is not law at all.” “Guess what legislators,” Dunbar said, “you don’t have the freedom to make any laws if they are contrary to what God has said in his Holy Scripture.”
  • This interview with Willie Parker, an obstetrician who performs late-term abortions, is a must-read.
  • As digby says:
    I get a fair amount of criticism for worrying about the "first world" problems of women with their "contraception" obsession and their "choices" when there are people being killed around the world today at Americans' hands, so I found this instructive and illuminating. [...]

    But it must be noted that the alleged first world "trivialities" of American women and the second class status of women all over the world are connected in a very basic and fundamental way. And it's a problem that faces more than half the population of the world to one degree or another. I think that's important too.

  • Where have all the manly men gone? Blame the feminists for destroying manhood with their evil man-hating feminism, says professional woman-hater Phyllis "Yes, I'm Still Alive" Schlafly.
  • In case you missed it, everyone, including Catholics, likes birth control:
    Gallup poll of perceived moral acceptability of birth control by religion
  • The Catholic bishops, however, refuse to acknowledge that they're the only ones who have a problem with birth control. So they've coordinated a massive lawsuit against the Obama administration to stop implementation of the new birth control insurance mandate. "I'll see you sluts in court!" Jesus did not say.

This week's marching order: Tell your senators to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Now go forth, sluts, and raise hell.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sat May 26, 2012 at 04:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Sluts, Pro Choice, and Abortion.

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