Thursday, January 28, 2010

And Now for Some Good News …

Paycheck Fairness Act gaining Momentum

With the economy continuing to lag, so many women out of work, with the continuing challenge of health care reform and the continuing fight to establish a basic labor standard of paid sick days, it’s time for some encouraging news., So here it is: There‘s finally movement on the Paycheck Fairness Act and it couldn’t come at a better time.

This week, women’s and civil rights activists across the country are celebrating the one year anniversary of President Barack Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act into law. The Ledbetter law gives workers a wider window to file claims of pay discrimination. It’s a critically important piece of legislation.

But on a conference call Tuesday with Senator Chris Dodd, Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Marcia Greenberger, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center, Lilly Ledbetter herself said: “The work is far from done.”

Another year has passed and pay discrimination persists.

The pay gap actually widened slightly between 2007 and 2008, from 77.8 (generally rounded to 78 percent) to 77 percent. For women of color, it was even wider. In 2008, the earnings for African American women were 67.9 percent of men's earnings (a drop from 68.7 percent in 2007), and Latinas' earnings were 58 percent of men's earnings (a drop from 59 percent in 2007). Take a look at “
The Wage Gap Over Time” table and you’ll see how little the gap has changed in this century.

While Ledbetter restored the law, Paycheck Fairness strengthens it and plugs loopholes. One of the most important components is that it will prohibit retaliation against workers who share information about their wages. If there had been wage transparency when Lilly Ledbetter was working at that Goodyear Tire plant in Gadsen, Alabama, she would have been able to find out that her male counterparts were earning more than she; that she received less pay simply because of her gender. But she didn’t find out for decades – not until someone slipped her an anonymous note.

Her fight has made the workplace more equitable for us all.

But, back to the good news: The House passed the Paycheck Fairness bill in July 2008. Now, the Senate is starting to act on it. Hearings are beginning. A bill should follow. And Sen. Dodd said he would seek time to discuss it on the Senate floor by spring.

Ah, spring. Fairness for women – and most important their families -- is in the air.