Yesterday, the Federal Paycheck Fairness Act failed along party lines, 52-47. The legislation would have built on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which ended the statute of limitations on equal pay lawsuits. The Paycheck Fairness Act—which was supported by President Obama— would have to prohibited company retaliation against employees who inquire about pay disparities, and facilitate the process for female employees to sue in instances of paycheck discrimination. The Republican block of this important legislation again demonstrates the sharp divide between those federal representatives invested in gender and economic equality, and those who are not.
Republicans have conveniently tried to paint pay equity as an issue that puts an unfair burden on small business owners, but the real issue is the feminization of poverty— a phenomenon that makes it acceptable for women to earn less than men, be economically and socially dependent on men, and endure economic and social exclusion on a number of different levels (this seems especially the case when it comes to access to healthcare). It goes without saying that this dynamic benefits certain political positions. But the facts can't be denied— America's impoverished homes are still most likely to be led by single females.
Here in New York, pay inequity hits close to home. Statistics have shown that in our state, the median pay for a woman working full time is $41,570 per year, while the median yearly pay for a man is $50,228. This means that women are paid 83 cents for every dollar paid to men, amounting to a yearly gap of $8,658 between the genders. New York women of color experience greater wage disparities— in one year, the average Black woman earns approximately $12,197 less than all men. For New York’s Latinas, the figure is $18,685 (a number even lower than the national average).
In 2010, I introduced a resolution into the City Council calling upon Congress to pass and the President to sign into law the Paycheck Fairness Act. I also recently joined my friend U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in signing a petition urging Congress to act on this legislation. As we continue serious conversations around growing unemployment, crippling student debt, mortgage default, and other financial issues far too many Americans face, I hope that our Washington leadership moves forward on policies that close the income gap and bring greater economic equality to all Americans.