“Sorry, Jim. We’re not going to be giving you your full paycheck anymore. We’re cutting your pay by 23 percent. It’s because you’re a man, Jim. We’re paying you less because of that. I’m sure you understand.”
How do you think that would go over? Can you imagine the outrage from men if they were told that although they were doing a good job, they would see their pay cut — only because of their gender?
That is the situation faced today by the 368,000 women I work for in Southern Arizona — and the situation women have faced since they entered the American workforce in great numbers more than a half-century ago.
Nationally, women today earn 77 cents for every $1 earned by a man — for no reason other than their gender. In Arizona we are doing slightly better; a woman earns 82 cents for every $1 paid to a man. But any gap based on gender is inexcusable.
The disparity extends across all fields and it holds true in occupations dominated by women, by men and in those that are gender-balanced.
As Americans we believe in fairness: that people who play by the rules and do a good job should get ahead. But this unfairness persists. I will not accept the premise that my wife, my daughters and my granddaughters will earn less simply because they are women.
That’s why I co-sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act.
This bill requires that men and women doing the same job must be paid the same — unless the employer can show that there is a reason for the pay differential that is not gender-based.
The Paycheck Fairness Act will benefit women, but it will also benefit families. Almost half of all workers are women, and 40 percent of working women are the primary breadwinners in their families. The success of our families relies upon the economic security of women.
In 1963, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, which requires employers to give men and women “equal pay for equal work.”
In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was signed, barring discrimination in employment.
In 2009, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was signed, clarifying that pay discrimination occurs when a pay decision is made, when an employee is subject to that decision or at any time an employee is injured by it. Employees have 180 days from any of those instances to file a claim.
These have helped, but have also left gaps that will be filled by the Paycheck Fairness Act.
It is outrageous that Republicans in the Senate blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act. Action is overdue on pay equity, and I am hopeful that despite partisan politics, fairness will prevail.
There are other steps we must take to make sure that women have equality in the workplace. I am working with my colleagues on a Women’s Economic Development Plan to address a range of women’s issues.
I recently introduced the Women’s Economic Bill of Economic Rights with the support of 32 co-sponsors. This resolution advocates pay equity, fair treatment in the workplace, access to paid family and medical leave, and economic security in retirement.
Female-owned businesses receive about 4 percent of federal government contracts. That’s why I co-sponsored the Women’s Procurement Program Equalization Act, which would set aside certain contracts to be awarded to female-owned businesses — similar to programs that level the playing field for veterans, minorities and businesses in low-income areas.
The bottom line is this: When women succeed, Arizona and America succeed. The Paycheck Fairness Act and the other legislation I have sponsored are essential steps toward that goal.