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Senate Misses Opportunity to Take a Bite Out of the Pay Gap
WASHINGTON — The American Association of University Women (AAUW) sharply criticized today’s procedural defeat of the Paycheck Fairness Act by a 58-41 vote in the U.S. Senate. The Senate’s rejection of the bill comes despite widespread support of the legislation from the White House and ordinary Americans committed to basic fairness and equality.
“This was a missed opportunity to make history and jump start real economic change for American women and their families,” said AAUW Executive Director Linda D. Hallman, CAE. “While the Senate’s action is difficult to comprehend given the stark reality that most families depend on the paychecks of women, our effort to close the pay gap is far from over.”
On average, women still make only 77 cents for every dollar men earn. By some estimates women could lose between $500,000 and $1 million over a 40-year career. In higher-paying fields, such as law, the wage gap can result in even greater lifetime losses. AAUW’s report Behind the Pay Gap controlled for factors known to affect earnings such as education and training, parenthood, and hours worked and found that college-educated women still earn less than men — despite the same major and occupation as their male counterparts.
“What’s especially frustrating is that this critical bill became a victim of arcane Senate rules,” said Lisa Maatz, AAUW director of public policy and government relations. “This de facto filibuster of fair pay by Senate Republicans ensured that we never got to a debate on the bill’s merits. Strategically, I can’t blame them — they can’t win a fair fight against pay equity.”
The Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 182/S. 3772) would have updated the landmark Equal Pay Act of 1963 by closing loopholes, strengthening incentives to prevent pay discrimination, and prohibiting retaliation against workers who inquire about employers’ wage practices or disclose their own wages.
“If we had just a few more senators voting with the courage of their convictions, we’d be debating this bill rather than writing its epitaph for the 111th Congress,” Maatz continued. “While we are deeply troubled by the vote, we know that we’ll eventually win this fight. AAUW stands on a rich, century-old tradition of advocacy. Our members are not easily deterred and are deeply proud of our history of accomplishments. AAUW has played a leading role in some of the nation’s most important public policy successes in the areas of family friendly workplaces, education, and pay equity.”