Senate Republicans Block Paycheck Fairness Again

Just three days into the lame-duck Congress, Republicans returned to their obstructionist ways. Yesterday, all the Senate Republicans voted in lockstep to prevent the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 182) from coming to the floor. The final vote, 58-41, fell two votes short of the 60 needed to break the Republican-imposed logjam. The House passed the bill last year. If enacted, it would help close the wage gap between women and men. Check out the roll call vote here

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

Senate Republicans today disrespected America’s working women by voting to prevent any debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act. Simply put, blocking the Paycheck Fairness Act encourages discrimination of women in the workplace.

Efforts like this legislation to close the income gap in our country are an essential component to long-term economic recovery. Republicans in the Senate have remained content to leave the middle-class and the poor out in the cold in pursuit of their political goals and interests of their Wall Street allies. They have had but one message to the elderly, the unemployed, the uninsured and now even women, “No.”

In a statement, President Obama said he was “deeply disappointed” that a minority of senators prevented the bill from finally being brought up for a debate and a vote.

As we emerge from one of the worst recessions in history, this bill would ensure that American women and their families aren’t bringing home smaller paychecks because of discrimination.  It also helps businesses that pay equal wages as they struggle to compete against discriminatory competition…. Despite today’s vote, my administration will continue to fight for a woman’s right to equal pay for equal work.

The vote came on the same day the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) released a survey showing the prevalence of keeping salaries secret—one of the key reasons employers are able to get away with paying women less than men.

“It took Lilly Ledbetter most of a decade to find out that she was being paid less than men doing the same job,” said Heidi Hartmann, president of IWPR.

With the ability to ask about other workers’ pay, she might have discovered the wage discrimination far earlier and could have sought a remedy without fear of recrimination.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act corrected the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that Ledbetter, a 20-year employee of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., had sued too late when she discovered her pay was far below that of men doing similar work.  

Pay secrecy is much more common in the private sector. In the private sector, 61 percent of employees said they are either discouraged or prohibited from discussing wage and salary information, compared with only 14 percent of public sector employees.

“The gender wage gap in the federal government—with high levels of pay transparency—is only 11 percent,” said Barbara Gault, vice president and executive director of IWPR.

The gender wage gap in the economy as a whole is 23 percent. Pay secrecy is part of the reason for this difference, and the Paycheck Fairness Act could help.