Politically-charged pay equity bill to get vote in Senate Tuesday
June 4th, 2012
06:59 PM ET
9 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. JustAO

    Why do Republicans always favor the businesses owners over consumers and workers? I don't get it. If consumers and workers feel protected, guess what, confidence and demand from those consumers and workers increases which in turn increases profits and hiring for business owners.

    Why is that so hard for conservatives to understand or even believe? The more Republicans place profits over the economy, the economy will suffer and then there will be no profits for anyone.

    June 4, 2012 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  2. Angel

    The republicans will vote no, thus, voting against half of the electorate's best interest.

    June 4, 2012 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  3. Gurgyl

    Good, women for obama12.

    June 4, 2012 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  4. B

    Republicans will block this bill at the expense of half the electorate just to sink President Obama.

    June 4, 2012 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  5. works4me

    If a woman is capable of doing my job she should certainly get the exact same pay. If, on the other hand, I am capable of doing her exact same job, I should get more??
    Makes perfect sense to me... in a GOP world!

    June 4, 2012 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  6. amf140

    I would think that this kind of legislation is an insult to all independent women in this country. Why do they need the government to protect them? Our women are strong, qualified and just as aggressive as men. They are graduating college at a much higher rate than men. They are going into previous male dominated businesses at an alarming rate. They are rising to high positions in our corporations and in our government. Sure it has taken time to level the playing field but those gains have been hard fought and not tied to some government mandate. This is just a way for the feminist movement to stay relavent. Watch out for the "unintended consequences" of such legislation. It could hurt more than help.

    June 4, 2012 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  7. Larry L

    In the Republican world "fairness" only applies to white men... you know... those God intended to be corporate executives. If the men don't make more money how can they take care of the "little ladies" at home. If the "darlin's" want money they only have to ask their husbands for it – to be certain they don't waste it on foolish "girly-things". We all know women don't have the kind of brain designed for financial matters – with all of that cookin', cleanin', and child-rearin' to do! Vote!

    June 4, 2012 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  8. AKsteve

    No matter what the issues is the GOP always takes the worse case scenario to the extreme. Every election year they say the Dems are going to take guns away, the Dems are going to take away your rights, the Dems are going to create "death panels", etc. Now they are saying this will take away "premium pay" and grant "unprecendent government control". Give me a break.

    Fear mongering only works on gullible fools with low IQ's. (That would be the Tea Party).

    June 4, 2012 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  9. Timothy

    I think the Republicans will take the Senate in this years elections.

    June 4, 2012 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  10. Crystal

    Obama is the best president ever!

    June 4, 2012 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  11. Donkey Party

    Remember when organizations like the NRA and the Chamber of Commerce were non-partisan? Today's GOP is just as hyper-partisan as these two examples of far right-wing propaganda machines. Pretty sad.

    June 4, 2012 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  12. Liz the First

    Good job! make the repugs clearly demonstrate how little regard they have for women. to them, we're nothing but baby-making cooks and maids who better know our place is in the home. any woman who supports the repug party is cutting her own throat. and no, i'm not saying women who choose to stay home and be wives and mothers are wrong. women have to have a choice, not just in their reproductive lives, but their work lives as well. the Democrats support women's rights in all facets of our lives.

    June 4, 2012 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  13. jean

    And how could it lead to job losses? Employers would let their female employees go? Good luck finding enough men that will work for women's wages to fill those job openings.

    June 4, 2012 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  14. Former Republican, now an Independent

    It's about time someone called these extremist republicans out and made them show their hand. It's easy just drawing your pay and refusing to cooperate on anything.

    June 4, 2012 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  15. Governor 47th in Job Growth

    All cards on the table GOP. Where do you stand with women?

    June 4, 2012 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  16. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I don't see how this could be a burden to those companies that are on the level and clearly doing the proper thing. I don't want my kids to have to worry about getting paid properly.

    June 4, 2012 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  17. Big Al

    This bill – as logical and overdue as it is – is still about politics. It is a bill that is geared toward winning over 53% of the electorate (women) and over half of the households in the country. Yet, once again, because it was written by the Dems and whitehouse, Mitt & Co. are going to be compelled to say no. Indeed, Romney's only comment was that he supported a bill like this "in principle." Seeing as he, Mitch McConnel and Eric Cantor would rather drink poison than support a Dem bill that benefits the country, it'll be interesting to see how Mitt the Weasel talks his way out of this one. Lots of luck, big guy.

    June 4, 2012 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  18. Keith

    If Congress is going to vote to help people in the working class you can depend on the Democrats to vote for it and the Republicans to vote against it.

    This will be one more opportunity for the Republicans to prove that they hate women.

    June 4, 2012 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  19. Bob

    I'd like to see this bill combined with the previously defeated ban on gender-based abortions. It would be interesting to see how the parties vote.

    June 4, 2012 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  20. gregingso

    This is a pretty good example of how to lie with statistics. Women as a group earn less then men because men as a group take far more dangerous jobs than women and also tend to take jobs that require extensive travel more than women. I think in today's world women who do the same work are being paid the same wage as the male working next to her. Why would a company hire a male to do a job that a woman can do if they can hire a woman to do that job at a lower wage? The answer is the wouldn't and do not. This is not a bill that should pass. If there is a company somewhere that is paying women less than men who are doing the same job then why don't they fire all the men and replace them with women at lower wages. More election year politicking that won't help our country one bit.

    June 4, 2012 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  21. Keith

    So, what will it be, the same, Republicans voting against the American people, against equal pay?

    June 4, 2012 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  22. Joe

    I'm a democrat and a liberal, but i oppose this bill. The labor market is a fairly efficient market. If women get paid less, that means they are either not as qualified (unlikely), go for lower paying fields and stay away from highly paid fields such as engineering (proven fact), or are doing less work or fewer hours(also fact), and often take maternity leave (also fact). This all impacts the employers bottom line. Women (as well as men) can always leave for a higher paying job, if they have the skills to demand such from the labor market. No employer in their right mind would discriminate simply to do so. That would harm profits. They're paying women less because they're deriving less value from them.

    This bill will only create inefficiencies in the labor market, which will manifest itself in other unintended ways. For example, the employment numbers for women could very well drop because hiring women is suddenly more expensive for an employer vs. the value they derive from them. We should find other ways to address this problem. This is a flawed piece of legislation.

    June 4, 2012 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  23. lexene

    Yes,There are hard working People

    June 4, 2012 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  24. Sydnium S. Washington

    Nice. Here ends in Thursday. Yours?

    June 5, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  25. Dan5404

    This bill is a no-brainer. Another effort by Republicans to denegrate women's rights.

    June 5, 2012 12:30 am at 12:30 am |
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