Politically-charged pay equity bill to get vote in Senate Tuesday
June 4th, 2012
06:59 PM ET
10 years ago

Politically-charged pay equity bill to get vote in Senate Tuesday

(CNN) - In this election year, when support from women is considered especially crucial, Democrats in Washington made a high-profile push Monday for a bill to help prevent pay discrimination against women.

"Congress has to step up and do its job," President Obama told supporters of the bill on a conference call.

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"If Congress passes the Paycheck Fairness Act, women are going to have access to more tools to claim equal pay for equal work. If they don't, if Congress doesn't act, then women are still going to have difficulty enforcing and pressing for this basic principle."

Republicans, who argued the measure would lead to over-burdensome government involvement in private sector pay practices, are expected to block the bill when it comes up for a key procedural vote in the Senate Tuesday.

Publicly, Democrats touted the measure, saying it would make it easier for women to prove pay inequity and sue for damages. They said it would provide pay fairness to female workers and would boost the economy because so many women – including many heads of households - are being underpaid. Privately, Democrats acknowledged they expect also to get a political boost from the legislative fight because GOP opposition could leave Democrats better positioned to appeal to female voters this fall.

"American women are mad as hell," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, the Democrats' chief sponsor of the bill. She said women earn 77 cents to the dollar for their male counterparts, which is up 18 cents since 1963, when President Johnson signed into law the Equal Pay Act.

In conference calls, press releases, and floor speeches, Democrats argued the pay inequality caused women to lose thousands of dollars over their lifetime and hurt poor women and minorities even more.

"No woman working to support herself and her family should be paid less that her male counterparts," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.

In a letter to Senate leaders, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups said while they have "no tolerance for discrimination" they would "vigorously oppose" the bill.

"The Paycheck Fairness Act would impose unprecedented government control over how employees are paid at even the nation's smallest employers," the letter said. "This flawed legislation would outlaw many legitimate practices that employers currently use to set employee rates, even where there is no evidence of intentional discrimination."

The business groups said the bill might prevent employers from offering "premium pay for professional experience, education, shift differentials or hazardous work as well as pay differentials based on local labor market rates or an organization's profitability."

Mikulski said her bill would build on the 1963 law. Specifically, it would require employers to prove pay inequity is due to job performance, not gender, and would, for the first time, prevent employers from forbidding employees from sharing salary information with each other. The bill also would allow women to sue for back pay and punitive damages if they suffered pay discrimination.

Aides in both parties said they don't expect more than a handful of defections from both sides of the aisle Tuesday.

Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts is in a tough and closely watched re-election fight against a woman, Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren. He is one of the Republican senators Democrats hoped to put in a difficult political position by pushing the pay legislation.

But Brown's office said Monday he will vote against the measure.

"Sen. Brown believes strongly in fair pay, and that employers who discriminate against women should be prosecuted aggressively," said Marcie Kinzel, his Senate spokesperson. "However, on the bill before the Senate, Sen. Brown believes it will put more burdens on small businesses and could lead to job losses at a time when our economy can least afford it."

Filed under: Congress • Democrats • Harry Reid • Republicans • Scott Brown • Senate
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Richard "BONEHEAD" Cheney

    If not now, when? The Republicans continually play the "job" card. The one that says any notion in fairness in pay is a job killer. If men and women are doing the same job at the same performance level they should be paid equally. The Republican Party is simply incapable of leaving the Middle Ages in the past.

    June 5, 2012 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  2. bobsutan

    What a bunch of crap. Women are already paid what they're worth. The research plainly shows whatever small pay gap that does exist is the result of women's own choices. The notion we need even more legislation on the matter is simply pandering to the women's lobby, plain and simple.

    June 5, 2012 12:54 am at 12:54 am |
  3. michael in michigan

    I don't think anyone understands that the reason our economic situation is in the dumps is because people can't afford to buy anything any more. So the solution?.... keep the money in the hands of business. "Corporations are people too." (Thank you, Mitt Romney.) A $7 pack of smokes can curb my hunger for longer than $7 worth of food. Maybe I should start drinking gasoline since it's cheaper than milk.

    June 5, 2012 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
  4. maglor

    - prevent employers from forbidding employees from sharing salary information with each other. -

    I wish they would at least pass this.

    June 5, 2012 02:39 am at 2:39 am |
  5. nolimits3333

    Just one more way Republican want to keep women in their place.

    If a women could register her uterus as a corporation, Republicans would have no interest in regulating it.

    June 5, 2012 03:13 am at 3:13 am |
  6. nytw

    Hopefully God will guide our leaders in voting against this bill. Passing this bill will be another step down the road to destroying America. Please God show Mitt Romney and Mitch McConnell the way to serve You and defeat this attempt by radical socialist liberals to destroy America.

    June 5, 2012 06:18 am at 6:18 am |

    The unhinged GOBP War on women continues.Still waiting on Mitt McCain to leave Ann's skirt and get back to us on this.

    June 5, 2012 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  8. T'sah from Virginia

    I'm in the boat of being underpaid for the same job a male counterpart does – I'm speaking of at least $10,000 or more less doing the SAME job, SAME experience – actually MORE experience, SAME college, MORE years of experience and on top of it all, I do a more Professional and Efficient job than my male co-worker does!!! I would love to have equal pay for the amount of work I do and I am the "bread-winner" in my family – So figure that!!

    Obama 2012 – The Only Trusted Way Forward!!

    June 5, 2012 06:54 am at 6:54 am |
  9. TomInRochNY

    Republican congressman, "We're for fair pay, just not the ability to enforce it if our contributors get caught."

    June 5, 2012 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  10. chuckly

    And the war on Women continue...

    June 5, 2012 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  11. Seattle Sue

    Like so many other bills, the Republicans will block this bill with a filibuster. Just as the have with jobs bills in the past.

    June 5, 2012 08:53 am at 8:53 am |
  12. Q

    Not a chance. No one cares if women get equal pay. Free market rules.........ROMNEY 2012

    June 5, 2012 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  13. vince

    It all sounds good but why doesn't the media tell us about the earmarks also attached to this bill?

    June 5, 2012 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
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