There was general rejoicing last year when the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act became the first major act of Congress signed into law by President Obama. The law expanded workers’ rights to sue in cases of wage discrimination, relaxing the statute of limitations which had kept Lilly Ledbetter, “who at the end of a 19-year career as a supervisor in a tire factory complained that she had been paid less than men.”
And certainly, I don’t think anyone’s debating the fact that this was a monumental event for women’s rights. But our tendency, when landmark legislation passes, seems to be to ignore the other parts of the issue that are more difficult to solve. And as a college junior staring down the barrel of an unfriendly job market, I would very much like to direct our attention back to the fact that on average, U.S. women earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by men. The wage gap widens as women grow older and it also carries into retirement. And the numbers are much worse for minority women. The implications are clear: the Lilly Ledbetter Act was a good first step. But we have far to go before women find themselves at economic parity with their male colleagues.
This is why the Paycheck Fairness Act, introduced January 2009 by then-Senator Hillary Clinton and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, designed to strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963, is so crucial. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives on January 9, 2009, but action by the Senate is still pending. According to the National Women’s Law Center, the bill “would deter wage discrimination by closing loopholes in the EPA and barring retaliation against workers who disclose their wages. The bill also allows women to receive the same remedies for sex-based pay discrimination that are currently available to those subject to discrimination based on race and national origin.”
Women are now half the workforce. But as I and other Care2 bloggers have written before, this doesn’t mean that we’re being paid equally or fairly.
Join me, the American Association of University Women, and Care2 in signing this petition – urge your senator to support the Paycheck Fairness Act!
Photo courtesy of Mirodac.