Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutionsby Former Senator Tom Harkin
Posted on 2013-01-29
HARKIN (for himself, Mr. Leahy, Mrs. Boxer, Mrs. Murray,
Mr. Lautenberg, Mr. Brown, Mr. Blumenthal, and Mrs.
S. 168. A bill to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to
prohibit discrimination in the payment of wages on account of sex,
race, or national origin, and for other purposes; to the Committee on
Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
Mr. HARKIN. Madam President, on January 29, 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay [[Page S359]] Act. It was a proud day and I was there for that. A critical law, the first legislation signed into law by President Obama after his first election, reversed the outrageous Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v Goodyear and made clear that a worker such as Lilly Ledbetter, who does not learn of her pay inequities for years, still had recourse to challenge her wage discrimination.
Today we celebrate the anniversary of the enactment of this important law, but at the same time we must recognize it was only a first step. We need to do much more to ensure that all workers in our society are paid fairly for their work and are not shortchanged because of the their gender, race or other personal characteristic. That is why, 4 years after enactment of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, I am proud to introduce once again the Fair Pay Act, a bill I have introduced in every Congress since 1996.
Let me give some background. In 1963, Congress enacted the Equal Pay Act to end unfair discrimination against women in the workplace. At that time, 25 million female workers earned just 60 percent of the average pay for men. While we have made progress toward the goal of true pay equity fully a half century later, too many women still do not get paid what men do for the same or nearly the same work. Let's be clear about this. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 has to do with women doing the same jobs as men. But still, on average, as we know, for every $1 a full-time male worker earns, a woman earns just 77 cents. So we have gone from 60 cents, in all those 60 years, to 77 cents for every $1 a man makes.
What does that translate into? You might say, OK, 7 cents is that a big deal? Yes, it is. Over a lifetime of work it means an average of $400,000 that a woman loses because of the unequal pay practices.
I will say that again later on, but that $400,000 is not just the pay she loses during her lifetime. Think about the retirement benefits that woman loses because she has been underpaid all those years. That is why we have a system in America, when a woman retires, a man retires, they had the same kind of work, a man gets a lot more retirement than a woman because they paid in more because they were paid more during their lifetime.
This system is wrong, it is unjust, and it threatens the economic security of our families. The fact is millions of American families are dependent on a woman's paycheck just to get by, to put food on the table, to pay for childcare, to deal with rising health care costs.
In today's economy, few families have a stay-at-home mother. In fact, 71 percent of mothers are in the labor force. They are a major contributor to their familie's income. Two-thirds of mothers bring home at least one-quarter of their familie's earnings and in more than 4 of 10 families with children, a woman is the majority or sole breadwinner.
That means in today's economy, when a mother earns less than her male colleagues, her family must sacrifice basic necessities, as well as face greater difficulty for these kids to save for college, afford a home, live the American dream. The lifetime of earning losses all women face, including those who are without children or whose children are grown, affects not only their well-being during their working lives, as I said earlier, but it affects their ability to save and have a decent retirement.
The evidence shows that discrimination accounts for much of the pay gap. In fact, according to one study, when we look at all the reasons there is a wage gap--we have race, 2.4 percent; 3.5 percent union status; labor force experience; industry category; occupational category--41 percent unexplained. They cannot explain why it is. The fact is, that is because of discrimination. It is because our laws have not done enough to prevent this discrimination from occurring. That is why the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was a critical first step. That is why it is important to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.
That bill was introduced last week by Senator Mikulski. I am proud to be an original cosponsor. She has always championed that. What that does is start to close a lot of the loopholes and barriers to effective enforcement in our existing law to close that 41 percent unexplained gap. We need to strengthen penalties and give women the tools they need to confront discrimination.
It is outrageous that the Senate has not yet passed the Paycheck Fairness Act. In the last two Congresses this bill got more than a majority of support. In 2010 58 United States Senators, a large majority, voted to pass this legislation. If we had 58 votes, why didn't we get it? Because of Republican obstructionism, we could not even proceed to debate the bill. This was a filibuster on a motion to proceed to the bill. We got 58 votes, but we could not even debate it.
Since we just went through a recent debate on rules reform, I want the American people to understand this. The Republicans, the minority party has continuously prevented the Senate from even considering the issue of unequal wages and gender discrimination. Millions of women and their families are concerned about the fact that they get paid less than their male colleagues. It is unfair; it is unjust. Nevertheless, repeatedly, the Republicans have filibustered even debating the issue.
Just last week we had a vote in the Senate to change the rules. We made some modifications of the rules. I truly hope those modifications which were made will now enable us to get over this hurdle so we can bring up the Paycheck Fairness Act and debate it. If they want to offer amendments, that is fine, but let's debate it. Let's have amendments and then let's vote to pass the bill. I hope the changes in the rules last week will enable us to do so.
As I said, the Lilly Ledbetter bill was a first step. The Paycheck Fairness Act will start to close some of the loopholes and make sure the penalties will be enforced. But there is one more step which needs to be taken, and I think it is the most critical one of all--equal pay, yes. We have had that since 1963; that is, women and men doing the same job. The Lilly Ledbetter Act allows us to go back and get the back wages that were due, but that is sort of after the fact.
The Paycheck Fairness Act will make sure we have penalties and enforceability. However, there is one other huge, glaring discrimination that is ongoing in our society today against women; that is, as a nation we unjustly devalue jobs traditionally performed by women even when they require comparable skills to the jobs traditionally performed by men.
Today millions of what we call female-dominated jobs, such as social workers, teachers, childcare workers, nurses, those who care for our elderly in assisted living care or in nursing homes--most of these jobs are equivalent in skills and working conditions to male-dominated jobs, but the female-dominated jobs pay significantly less. This is unfair and unjust discrimination.
Why is a housekeeper worth less than a janitor? Why is a maid worth less than a janitor? Eighty-nine percent of maids are female; 67 percent of janitors are male. While the jobs are equivalent in skills, effort, responsibility, and working conditions, the median weekly earnings for a maid are $387 and for a janitor it is $463. Computer- support workers--a job that is 72 percent male--have median weekly earnings of $949. In contrast, secretaries and administrative assistants, which is 96 percent female, have median weekly earnings of $659. Why do we value someone who helps with computers more than someone who makes the entire office function? That is not to say the men are overpaid, it is just to say that jobs we have long considered in our country as ``women's work'' or ``women's jobs'' are grossly underpaid.
Now to address this more subtle, deep-rooted discrimination, today I introduced the Fair Pay Act. As I said, this is a bill I have introduced--along with Congresswoman Norton--every year since 1996. The bill will ensure that employers provide equal pay for jobs that are equivalent in skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions.
People have asked: How do we do that? Well, we have some history. In 1982 the State of Minnesota implemented a pay equity plan for its State, and I think, also, municipal employees. The State found that women were segregated into historically female-dominated jobs and that women's jobs paid 20 percent less than male-dominated jobs. Pay equity wage adjustments [[Page S360]] were phased in over 4 years, leading to an average pay increase of $200 per month for women in female-dominated jobs.
In 1983, in my home State of Iowa, the Iowa Legislature--a Republican legislature and a Republican Governor, I might add--passed a bill stipulating that the State shall not discriminate in compensation between predominately male and female jobs deemed to be of comparable worth. That was in 1983. I am proud of Iowa. I just want to say this was passed by a Republican legislature and signed by a Republican Governor.
Toward that end, the State engaged a professional accounting firm to evaluate the value of 800 job classifications in State government. The final recommendations, which were made in April of 1984, proposed that 10,751 employees should be given a pay increase. After being implemented in March 1985, female employees' pay had increased at that time by about 1.5 percent. Think of what that means from 1985 to now and how much more those women are paid over all those years. This can be done as well for the women in this country who are currently being paid less, not because of their skills or education but simply because they are in undervalued ``female jobs.'' Making sure they receive their real worth will make a real difference for them and the family who rely on their wages.
Again, many of these jobs are jobs that we don't know what we would do without them. Have you ever visited someone in your family who was in a nursing home? Who is taking care of those people? Women. If we take someone who is in a situation like that, they have to lift and move heavy people. They have to be strong, and they care for people. Then we look at truckdrivers. Most truckdrivers are men. Truckdrivers have power steering and power brakes. A person doesn't have to be strong to drive a truck. They are making a lot more money than that woman who is working in a nursing home and taking care of our grandparents. Why? Skills, effort, responsibility, and working conditions are about the same.
What my bill would do would be very simple. It would require employers to publicly disclose their job categories and their pay scales. Got it? Employers would publicly disclose their job categories and pay scales without requiring specific information on individual employees. I am not asking anyone to say what they are paying an individual employee. We just want to know job categories and pay scales. If we give women information about what their male colleagues are earning, they can insist on a better deal for themselves in the workplace.
Right now women who believe they are the victim of pay discrimination must file a lawsuit and endure a drawn-out legal discovery process to find out whether they make less than the man working beside them. With pay statistics readily available, this process could be avoided. In fact, I remember when Lilly Ledbetter first testified before our committee--the committee I now chair and the committee on which the distinguished occupant of the chair is proud to serve.
I had provided Lilly Ledbetter information on the Fair Pay Act--the one I am talking about. I asked her if the Fair Pay Act had been law, would it have averted her wage discrimination case. She made it very clear that had she had the information about pay scales, which our bill provides, this would have given her the information she needed to insist on being paid a fair salary from the beginning rather than having to resort to litigation years after the discrimination began.
Four years after President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, let's make sure what happened to Lilly never happens again by recommitting ourselves to eliminating discrimination in the workplace and making equal pay for equivalent work a reality.
I have introduced this bill in every Congress since 1996. We get focused on Lilly Ledbetter, and that is important. We are focused on paycheck fairness as well. Let's think about the millions of American women out there who are in these traditional women's jobs which require the skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions that are similar to a man and yet they are grossly underpaid.
If Minnesota and Iowa--and there may be some other States I don't know about; I just know about those two. If they can do it--and they did this in the 1980s for State employees as well as municipal employees in Minnesota--surely we can do this nationwide. If we really want to stop the discrimination in pay in this country between women and men, the Fair Pay Act is the one that will do it.
I am going to continue to push for this as long as I am here. Hopefully, we can have some hearings on it again, which I will, and hopefully we can begin to move on it.
______ By Mr. HATCH (for himself, Ms. Klobuchar, Mr. Rubio, Mr. Coons, Mr. Flake, Mrs. Shaheen, Mr. Heller, Mr. Blumenthal, Mr. Hoeven, Mr. Warner, Mr. Nelson, and Mr. Schatz): S. 169. A bill to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to authorize additional visas for well-educated aliens to live and work in the United States, and for other purposes; to the Committee on the Judiciary.