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Barbara M.
Democrat MD

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  • Paycheck Fairness Act

    by Senator Barbara A. Mikulski

    Posted on 2013-01-30

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    MIKULSKI. Madam President, I rise to speak on the Paycheck Fairness Act. I would ask how much time is remaining.

    The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. There is 17 minutes remaining.

    Ms. MIKULSKI. I ask unanimous consent that we extend for another 15 minutes.

    The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Ms. MIKULSKI. Madam President, I join with my colleagues you have already heard from--Senator Cantwell of Washington State, Senator Stabenow of Michigan--and today I know other Senators will be coming to the floor to say: We want to finish the job. We want to finish the job that started 50 years ago when Lyndon Johnson introduced the first of three civil rights bills that were designed to change America.

    In the mid-1960s, there was turmoil. Change was in the air. People wanted equality. They were marching on the streets, they were pounding on the tables, and they were organizing in civil disobedience. Dr. King marched on Washington and Lyndon Johnson was laying the groundwork for the famous Civil Rights Act that would open the doors for minorities. But the very first bill he introduced was to guarantee [[Page S375]] equal pay for equal work for women. He did that as the first bill because he thought that would be one of the easiest to pass.

    Well, 50 years later we are still being redlined, sidelined, pink- slipped because we fight for equal pay for equal work. Every time we make an advance, they bring in the lawyers--the corporate lawyers--who then hide behind small business exemptions, and they fret on how it will wreck the economy of the United States.

    Well, I know what wrecked the economy of the United States, and it wasn't women wanting equal pay for equal work. That is not what brought us fraud, scams, and greed in the mortgage market. That did not cause the great collapse of the banks. We didn't cause that. Their hubris and greed did. But when they bring in the lawyers, we have to pass legislation.

    Four years ago, the first bill that we passed during the Obama administration was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. It repaired the right of women to address pay inequality in the courts. What it did was correct a misinterpretation by the court on what is the statute of limitations when women seek redress.

    But let me tell you that the fight continues. The fight continues now. The reason we need the Paycheck Fairness Act is the fact that women continue to be discriminated against and economically harassed and punished if they even ask: How much do the guys get paid? So if you are standing at the water cooler or if you go to your human resources and say: What do I get--if Georgette asks: What do I get, and she wants to know what George gets, she could be punished. She could be fired. She could be penalized. She could be isolated for being too aggressive. Haven't we heard that? Too uppity--my God, daring to ask what George gets paid. Well, the Lillies, the Georgettes, and everybody who gets up every day and takes pride in their work, does the job they were hired to do, they want to get the pay they have every right to. So our legislation will keep employers from retaliating against employees who share information about pay.

    Remember how Lilly Ledbetter's bill got triggered? Lilly was working at Goodyear, doing a good job, even promoted. But guess what, finally some men, some great guys--and there are great guys--came and said: Guess what, Lilly. We get a better deal than you do. That is how Lilly Ledbetter found out, and when she went to ask, she was punished. So our Paycheck Fairness Act would keep employers from retaliating against employees who share information.

    It will also close a loophole in the current law that allows employers to use just about any reason for paying a woman less than a man by requiring that the reason be unrelated to sex and it has to be job related. The fact is that they will say: Well, we pay George more because you really should be 5-foot-8 to do the job, and most women might only be 5-foot-6. Well, have you seen those title IX gals lately? Anyway, they always invent the reasons. That is where, instead of solving the problem, they bring in the lawyers. They always bring in the lawyers. Now we are bringing in the votes, and what we want to say is that we want to close that loophole.

    We also want to improve the remedies available for victims of discrimination by simply putting the Equal Pay Act on par with other laws to combat equal treatment.

    Everyone wants to say what this bill is about. They all have opinions. It is not about politics; it is about a pay gap. It is not about only gender; it is about an agenda. What is our country? Are we going to be fair with each other in the marketplace? This bill is about our families, it is about our economy, it is about bread-and-butter decisions.

    So what are the consequences of paying equal pay for equal work? No. 1, it will put more money in the family checkbook. More money in the family checkbook means more spending in the economy. It is actually good economic policy in the real economy. Now, it might result in lower executive compensation, but it will result in fair compensation to the women who work. As we know, women now are really a significant part of the workforce, and we should be paid equal pay for equal work and not harassed when we want to ask questions, and close the loopholes to make sure they don't make up phony excuses.

    This is very, very important. When we look at it, 50 years--50 years--after Lyndon Johnson introduced his legislation, we are still at 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. For women of color, it is even less, and for Hispanic women, it is only 60 percent. That is not enough.

    So we want to change the lawbooks so we can put more money in the family checkbook and more money in our economy and make sure that the dream of 50 years ago that was started by Lyndon Johnson we rectify in the passage of this legislation, which I hope we do expeditiously between now and Mother's Day.

    I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The clerk will call the roll.

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