Sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s 2013…
The button shown on the right is the actual one that was worn by my mother when she marched, with me at her side, with 85,000 others in Chicago, during a rally for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 1980. 59¢ was how much women in 1980 earned for every dollar a man made for the same job.
Today that number is 77¢. In 33 years, women have only gained 18¢ in their struggle for paycheck fairness. At that rate, to paraphrase Laurie Anderson, it will be the year 2055 before they make a buck. That is, unless Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski and Connecticut Congresswoman Rose DeLauro have anything to say about it.
The original Joint Resolution that became the ERA was submitted by Martha Griffiths (who later became Michigan’s Lt. Governor under Jim Blanchard) and was passed by both Houses of Congress in 1972. However, the ERA was never adopted, thanks mainly to efforts of notorious anti-women’s right firebrand, Phyllis Schlafly. Schlafly galvanized conservatives against the passage of the ERA. After Congress passed it, it went to the states for ratification. Thanks to Schlafly’s efforts, the required 38 states did not ratify it by the 1980 deadline and the battle for the ERA ended, at least for a time. It has been recently brought back to life with a petition at petitions.whitehouse.gov. That petition, however, failed to secure enough signatures to warrant a response from the White House.
Not content to let die the movement to secure equal pay for equal work for women in the USA, the Paycheck Fairness Act has been introduced multiple times over the past decade. It came before the full Senate in 2009 and then again in 2010. Both times it was filibustered by Republicans who wouldn’t even allow it to come to a vote.
This week, along with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Sen. Mikulski introduced it again. She has described the wage gap as part of the overall GOP War on Women:
It’s one bullet every paycheck when you’re discriminated against. Every time you get a paycheck and you’re making less than the next person, that’s a war against women.
During her speech at the Democratic National Convention, she had this to say, praising President Obama for his leadership on women’s equality:
These are our priorities. These are President Barack Obama’s priorities. We know that every issue is a women’s issue. And equal pay for equal work is an American issue. The 77 cents that women make for every dollar men earn makes a real difference to our families—families stretching to make every dollar count.
We are so proud that the first law signed by President Barack Obama was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. That first bill was about America’s first principles: equality, opportunity and prosperity. Republicans in the Senate blocked our efforts to go further and end pay discrimination once and for all. We, the women of the Senate, with President Obama by our side, will keep fighting—our shoulders square, our lipstick on—because you deserve equal pay for your hard work.
The fact that Republicans in Congress in 2012 could not find their way to making sure that women are paid the same amount as men is beyond astonishing. It shows just how much the Republican party has devolved. They promote women candidates, even putting a women on the ticket for the high office of Vice President as recently as 2008. Then, only two years later, voted en masse to prevent women from achieving paycheck equity. If you think there is no Republican Women, think again. And if you think that paycheck equity isn’t an issue, think again on that, too. Kaili Joy Gray at Daily Kos spells it out comprehensively and succinctly:
The wage gap is real. It exists in nearly every single profession. And contrary to Republican claims, it is not just because women choose lower-paying jobs. Or because “money is more important for men.” Even in those supposedly lower-paying jobs dominated by women, men still make more. In higher-paying professions, the gap is even worse, hitting CEOs the hardest.
Let’s finish with Congresswoman DeLauro’s statement on her reintroduction of this essential legislation this week:
“Equal pay is not just a problem for women, but for families, who are trying to pay their bills, trying to get ahead, trying to achieve the American Dream, and are getting a smaller paycheck than they have earned for their hard work,” said DeLauro, who has introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act for each of the past eight congresses. “The Paycheck Fairness Act will help the Equal Pay Act fulfill its intended objective, offer real protections to ensure equal pay for equal work, and see that women are paid the same as the other half of our nation’s workforce for the same job.”