CHN: Senate Republicans Say “No” to Women

On November 17, the Senate narrowly failed to overcome a procedural vote allowing debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 3772) that would grant women legal protections against pay discrimination.  The 58-41 vote fell short of the 60 needed when all Republican Senators and Ben Nelson (D-NE) voted in opposition.  The bill passed the House in January 2009 with bipartisan support.
It has been 47 years since the landmark Equal Pay Act protected workers against pay discrimination based on race or religion.  S. 3772 would make employers prove that any disparities in wages are job-related and not gender-based.  Republicans and business groups said the bill would expose employers to more litigation by removing limits on punitive and compensatory damage awards.  But in fact, the Paycheck Fairness Act maintains the protections currently provided to small businesses under the Equal Pay Act and updates its legal remedies based on principles from other civil rights laws.

In 2009, almost 40 percent of women were the primary earner in their households.  Women, on average, earned only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men with the same education and experience doing comparable work in the same place of business.  The gap was even greater for African American women who were paid only 62 cents, and Latinas only 53 cents, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.  Advocates were deeply disappointed when partisan politics intervened and the vote failed.  The composition of the new Congress will make passage in the near future even more difficult.

Labor and Employment