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Barbara B.
Democrat CA

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  • Paycheck Fairness Act

    by Senator Barbara Boxer

    Posted on 2013-01-30

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    BOXER. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

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

    Mrs. BOXER. Madam President, I wish to thank the Senator from Maryland, who has been such a remarkable leader on all of these issues. We have so much work to do, as she has outlined, and I will add a few specific cases to what she said.

    This is the 4-year anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter law, and we were able to push it forward, and it was the first bill President Obama signed in his first term. I think that said a lot about its importance.

    Because Lilly Ledbetter is pretty well known in the country, we know her story. You can imagine the feelings she had when she found out that after all the work she was putting in, simply because she was a woman she was getting paid less than the men doing the exact same thing. And, yes, thank you to the men who respected Lilly Ledbetter enough to let her know. There was a notice in her locker that essentially informed her that she was working for way less than they were. Over the course of her lifetime, it was a huge amount of money that made a huge difference.

    When Lilly tells the story, you can just see the anguish in her face. And she, of course, went all the way to the Supreme Court trying to get redress. Finally, the Court decided, and they said: You know what. You have a really good case, but you didn't move forward fast enough. You were supposed to come and file this lawsuit much sooner.

    Well, she didn't know much sooner. She couldn't have filed the lawsuit. And that is what led to our corrective legislation, so that in the future a woman who has faced pay discrimination will have her day in court and will have the time necessary to proceed with the court case and get justice. The court had said she had to file from the minute the discrimination started, but Lilly didn't know she was being discriminated against until years later. So thank goodness this Congress and the President remedied that.

    But we have unfinished business. We have a bill called the Paycheck Fairness Act, and I hope that all will get involved as well because the fact is that women, after all the progress we have made, earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. We women in the Senate are fortunate in the sense that is one battle we don't have to wage because a Senator is a Senator is a Senator. Imagine if they had a rule saying men Senators get this and women Senators get that. People would say something is very wrong with this picture. But that is the way it is on the outside. It is undercover. People do not know about it, but women who do the same job as a man on average will make 23 cents less.

    You could say: Seventy-seven cents for every dollar--is that really a lot? Let me tell you, it is a lot. Over a lifetime it is about $434,000 less that she will have at the end of her career.

    This pay gap persists across all occupation and income levels. A Bloomberg analysis found that women earned less than their male counterparts in 264 out of 265 major occupation categories. Women earned less than their male counterparts in virtually all of the occupation categories. So the wage gap clearly hurts women, but it also hurts their families. Think about families [[Page S376]] where the major wage earner is a woman. Those children and grandchildren will feel the pain.

    Of course the economy is hurt because there are fewer dollars circulating in the economy. A woman is going to spend a lot of the money she earns right out there, supporting her family, going to the store, organizing visits to camps and vacations, and all that money helps the economy.

    I am going to close this by reading a couple of stories, real-life stories. A woman from California had an identical advanced degree as her husband. She landed the exact same job as her husband but at a different worksite. The woman's husband was offered $5,000 more in starting salary for the same job with the exact same resume.

    A health care worker in Long Island discovered she had been earning $10 an hour less than her male colleagues with the same experience. When she brought this up to her superiors, she was reprimanded for asking about the wage gap.

    That goes to what Senator Mikulski said. Imagine the nerve of someone finding out they were paid $10 an hour less and trying to find out why, and for that she is reprimanded, put in her place.

    Then a female employee for a major corporation in Florida was told when she was hired that if she disclosed her salary to other workers, that would be grounds for dismissal. She soon realized that her male counterparts made more than she did but she did not have any written proof. A fellow female employee at the company was told that because her husband picked her up from work in a nice car, she did not need to get a salary increase.

    We need to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. It closes loopholes that have allowed employers to avoid responsibility for discriminatory pay. It prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information with their coworkers, and it puts gender-based discrimination sanctions on equal footing with other forms of wage discrimination such as race, disability, or age, so women would be eligible for the same remedies available to other victims of discrimination, such as punitive damages.

    It is simply a matter of fairness. Every American deserves equal pay for equal work. We have to end this practice of shortchanging half of our country--more than half of the people are female. This means we are hurting our country, we are hurting their families.

    In 2010, Senate Republicans filibustered our efforts to proceed to this bill. All we wanted to do was proceed to it and get an up-or-down vote. We faced a filibuster. In June 2012, Senate Republicans blocked us again. We are calling on them in a spirit of fairness and justice to work with us in this Congress and give all the women of America the same chance for success as their male counterparts. Remember, $400,000- plus over a career is a tremendous amount of money for people. That can make the difference in having a decent retirement. We heard today that the vast majority of Americans, if they lost their job, have no savings at all. It is not as if we are paying people lavish salaries. Let's make sure, whatever the salaries are, that they are fair, that they are equal to each other. If a woman is doing the same job, much as a Senator, as a male, they get the same pay. It is simple. It should not be a problem.

    If there is a filibuster, I will never understand it. I will say this. No woman in America today will understand why anyone would filibuster such a bill--equal pay for equal work. And no man in America who loves a woman, be it their mom or their aunt or their wife or their daughter, would understand it either. Let's hope we get to a vote on this measure.

    I yield the floor.

    The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Alaska.

    Mr. BEGICH. Madam President, I thank my colleague from California for making those important remarks. I am also here to talk about the Paycheck Fairness Act for a few minutes, if I could. As she said in her last remarks, it is very important to note the last few times this issue has come up it was filibustered. We did not even get to the bill. So hopefully, according to the new rules we agreed on here and coordinated in a bipartisan way, we will get to the bill and we will debate it on its merits, not on whether it should proceed. Let's see how that works. Again, I thank her for coming down here today.

    I rise here on the anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 to lend my support to the next bill we need to pass, the Paycheck Fairness Act. I thank Senator Mikulski for organizing this important discussion.

    Four years ago I entered this Chamber fresh from Alaska. Madam President, you are fresh from North Dakota. I probably sat right there during that debate in 2009. I was finishing my second term as mayor of Anchorage and was excited to take on the new challenges in the Senate on behalf of all Alaskans. I am honored to say one of my first votes in the Senate as a new Senator was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. I was proud to add my support to the cause.

    At the same time it was--and is--disheartening to continue hearing about pay inequity as a major economic problem, that there are still drastic wage gaps for women, that women on average still earn about one-fifth less than their male counterparts.

    We all know the numbers. That is why I have cosponsored Senator Mikulski's Paycheck Fairness Act each time it was introduced. It provides women with the tools to close this long-standing gap. Her bill is an important companion to the Lilly Ledbetter Act, which kept the courthouse door open to demand justice over pay discrimination.

    This was a crucial victory, but we must continue the fight and finish the job by passing paycheck fairness. At its core, the bill is really very simple: It says employees and employers can share wage information and that discrepancies in pay must be based on experience and qualifications--not on gender.

    What is more fair than that? Unfortunately, my State is not a leader on pay equity. In Alaska, women earn 78 cents for every dollar paid to men. Unless that changes, Alaska women will earn $623,000 less than men during their working careers. This pay gap has harmed the families of roughly 155,000 women in the Alaska workforce. Women in Alaska have higher rates of economic insecurity than men: In 2010, women working full time not only earned lower average wages but also were more likely to live in poverty--more than 10 percent of Alaska women compared to about 7 percent of men.

    Women in Alaska make up 47 percent of the state workforce and nearly half of them are married mothers who are the primary wage earners in their families. When they earn less than men, that burden falls on the entire family--including about 112,000 Alaska children who are dependent on their mother's earnings.

    The State's highest-paying industries--including manufacturing, natural resources and mining--are mostly dominated by men. Jobs such as miners, mobile heavy equipment mechanics and electrical power line installers pay much better than State average wages, but few women are getting those jobs.

    Our Alaska Department of Labor puts it bluntly: ``Women seem to be funneled into lower-pay occupations.'' Listen to these numbers. If the gap between men's and women's wages in Alaska were eliminated, each full-time working woman could suddenly afford to pay for 2 more years of groceries, buy 3,700 more gallons of gas or pay the mortgage and utility bills for 8 more months.

    So on this 4th anniversary of the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, I say to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle: Let's finish the job and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. As I said, it's so simple. The bill will close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and establish stronger workplace protections for women.

    In the real world there should be nothing complicated or controversial about this, but sometimes we wonder where we are; it is not always the real world. As I said at the beginning of my comments, hopefully the issue of filibuster will not be part of this equation, that we actually get on the bill, have the debate, and people can vote up or vote down, amend it or not, and determine where we stand on this issue.

    I am from a household where we were raised by a mother, the six of us. My father died when I was 10. She survived raising four boys, which is a miracle in [[Page S377]] itself, and two girls. The problem was not the girls, it was the boys. But she raised six of us at a very young age. Hopefully some would consider us productive parts of society. But when I saw what my mom had to struggle through, what she had to earn to make sure we had food on the table, make sure we had opportunities in our lives, it is clear to me that this is not a complicated issue. This is a simple fairness issue.

    I hope my colleague on the other side, again, would allow it to come forward. We will debate it and then we will vote on it, and the American people, Alaskans, will see what we think of fairness in the sense of a paycheck for a woman working the same job--equal job as a man does.

    I yield the floor.

    The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Indiana.


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