Good news alert: The Paycheck Fairness Act, which passed in the Democrat-controlled House back in 2010 but died after every single Republican in the Senate voted against it, is back on the table — or more precisely, in the ring. Over at Bloomberg News, Elizabeth Dwoskin writes:
Legislation that would make it easier for people to compare salary data with their colleagues when they suspect their employers are stiffing them is headed for a fight in Congress. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) moved to force a June 5 vote on the long-stalled bill.
And hooray for that.
As we’ve noted a number of times, census data shows that women still make on average seventy-seven cents to a man’s buck. Which is pretty silly, when you think about it, seeing as how we make up more than half of college graduates these days and almost half of the workforce. When you realize that the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the first bill to address any sort of paycheck disparity, was signed into law back in 1963, you really have to wonder why the fight still lingers. And that twenty-three cents? It’s a pretty significant wage gap, amounting to an average of well over $10,000 a year.
To conclude: if this bill is one more step toward closing the gap, who could fight against it? According to Bloomberg’s Dwoskin, the Republicans are loaded for bear:
Now that women’s rights have taken on a central role in the presidential campaign, Reid and his fellow Democrats have revived the issue to put Republicans on the spot. The strategy may pay off, as it looks like Republicans are raring to block the bill again. Jon Kyl, the Arizona GOP senator in charge of rounding up votes, is panning the legislation, telling my colleague Kathleen Hunter of Bloomberg News, “All this does is add more ways in which trial lawyers can make money on these people. It doesn’t do anything to advance anybody’s rights.”
Oh, I think it can. Why? Because information is power. You can’t fight against unfair treatment unless you can proved you’ve been treated unfairly. And as Dwoskin notes, many companies have HR policies that say that employees who dare to ask what the guy in the next cube is making — or reveal the details of their own paycheck — can find themselves out on their keester. The Paycheck Fairness Act would not only prevent folks who ask about paycheck date from being punished, but would also allow the government to build a confidential database of pay stats from a wide-array of companies, which would in turn enable the government to screen for patterns of wage inequities.
Over on Politico, Scott Wong writes that some Republicans object to the bill by invoking the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, saying that the first bill Obama signed into law renders any more legislation unnecessary. But as Wong writes later:
Democrats counter that the Paycheck Fairness bill is much stronger than the Ledbetter Act. They say Ledbetter keeps the courthouse door open for women to sue for discrimination, while Paycheck makes it tougher to discriminate in the first place. Ledbetter does not address compensatory or punitive damages; Paycheck does. And Paycheck makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against workers for inquiring about their colleagues’ wages.
For the life of me, I can’t think of a single reason why any sentient being would want to see their daughters paid less than their sons for the same work. (Or, for that matter, any man whose wife is bringing home half the bacon or maybe even all of it.) But what I also wonder is this: Are the same folks who are likely to lead the fight against the paycheck bill the same ones who deny the wage gap (and, perhaps, global warming) even exists?
Oh, the irony. But that’s another story, for another day. Until then, I’ll be watching closely how this newest round of the war on/for women plays out. But in the meantime: Think you could lend me my twenty-three cents?