By Michell K. McIntyre, Director of NCL’s Special Project on Wage Theft
If you are one of the millions of American working women, did you feel a slap in the face earlier this week? The Senate voted yesterday to defeat the pay equity bill designed to fix the wage gap faced by most women who still make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, and the outcome of the vote wasn’t pretty.
In an average year, the wage gap means a $10,784 loss for women, and the numbers for minority women are worse. But yesterday, the Senate had the chance to change that when they voted on the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Act went before the entire Senate, and the vote went straight along party lines – 52 in favor of the Act and 47 against the Act. Fifty Democrats, plus the two Independents, voted in favor of the Act, while 47 Republicans voted against the Act with one Republican choosing to abstain from the vote (Sen. Mark Kirk, Illinois)
Almost 50 years since the Equal Pay Act became law (1963) and made discrimination in the workplace illegal, why stop legislation designed to protect half of America’s workforce? Senate Republicans argued that the Act could adversely affect businesses if employees attempt to file pay-related lawsuits.
What about these women’s families? According to a Congressional report published and prepared by the Majority Staff of the Joint Economic Committee, in 2009, 25 percent of all U.S. families with children – 9.8 million families – are female-headed households. And according to the same report, by 2008, married working women’s income make up about 36 percent of the total family income. All of these millions of families are affected by the pay gap.
An extra $10,784 a year is not just a matter of injustice and inequality but also a matter of economic stability. According to the National Women’s Law Center, an additional $10,784 per year is enough to:
- Pay the median cost of rent and utilities for a year with over $1,000 to spare or the median mortgage payment and utilities for over ten months
- Feed a household of four for a year and five months with more than $300 to spare
- Pay a year and a half of childcare cost for a four-year-old with over $100 to spare
- Pay for two and a half years of family health insurance premiums in an employer-sponsored health insurance program with over $1,400 to spare
What could you have done with an extra $10,784 a year?