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Posts Tagged ‘Equal Pay Act’

face_of_pay_equity_150x225My first job in Washington, D.C., was at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC). The first piece of legislation I worked on as a RAC legislative assistant in 2010 was the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would make much-needed improvements to the Equal Pay Act, which was originally passed in 1963 to prohibit wage discrimination based on sex. As we enter the 50th anniversary year of this landmark legislation, it is important to acknowledge how far we’ve come — and how far we still have to go.

Back in fall 2010, the Fair Pay Coalition, led by AAUW, was gearing up for a Senate vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act. The bill had passed the House in January 2009 with a bipartisan majority, and President Obama had pledged to sign it if it came to his desk. At the RAC, I worked with the National Council of Jewish Women to mobilize the faith community in support of the Paycheck Fairness Act. We tripled the number of faith organizations that signed an interfaith letter to the Senate and brought these organizations into the Fair Pay Coalition (some of the groups continue to be active in the broader coalition today).

Unfortunately, a procedural motion to consider the Paycheck Fairness Act fell two votes short of the 60-vote threshold in the Senate. It was my first big legislative fight — and my first defeat. Yet as I looked around the AAUW boardroom during the coalition debrief a few weeks after the vote, I saw colleagues who had been fighting this fight for years, some for their entire careers. I realized that this issue extended far beyond the two months I had worked on it. The truth is, it goes back to 50 years ago, when the Equal Pay Act was first passed.

Today I am proud to work at AAUW, particularly now that we have entered the 50th anniversary year of the Equal Pay Act. AAUW continues to lead the fight for pay equity because even though we have made considerable progress in narrowing the wage gap in the last 50 years, we still have a ways to go. For the last decade, women working full time have typically earned 77 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earned. An 18-cent pay gap exists even when comparing the salaries of male and female graduates one year out of college. Wage discrimination affects the economic security of families today and affects women’s retirement security down the road. Moreover, pay equity is not only a women’s issue; it is a family issue, as women are increasingly the primary breadwinners in their households.

The 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act is a somewhat bittersweet occasion. On the one hand, we have much to celebrate about this landmark law, which predates the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the law typically thought of as the most significant piece of civil rights legislation. On the other hand, even the best laws need to be updated over time, and 50 years is too long without an update to the Equal Pay Act.

I look forward to building on this important work that I began at the RAC and continue to pursue at AAUW. The official 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act is June 10, 2013, but let’s begin talking about pay equity now and keep it up for the rest of the year. Someday soon I hope to sit at the AAUW boardroom table again and see my colleagues with smiles on their faces because of a pay equity victory — and I better not have to wait another 50 years for that to happen.

AAUW will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act at our 2013 National Convention in New Orleans. On the afternoon of June 10, join us for an anniversary panel featuring Lilly Ledbetter and AAUW’s own Lisa Maatz. Register today so you don’t miss out!

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’Tis the season of snow, champagne, and New Year’s resolutions! AAUW will formally submit a list of 2013 policy recommendations to Congress and the president, but we wanted to give our members and supporters a more informal look at some of our goals for this year — our advocacy resolutions, if you will.

Lisa Maatz, director of public policy and government relations: I resolve to recognize 2013 as the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act and call attention all year long for the need to update this important piece of legislation. The Equal Pay Act, originally signed into law on June 10, 1963, prohibits wage discrimination on the basis of sex. Although enforcement of the Equal Pay Act as well as other civil rights laws such as Title VII has helped to narrow the wage gap, significant disparities remain that need to be addressed. The Equal Pay Act is too limited in scope, and it has several loopholes that prevent us from further closing the wage gap. We’ve come a long way in the last 50 years, but we’ve got a ways to go — and I resolve to make sure everyone knows what we need to do to get there.

Erin Prangley, associate director of public policy and government relations: I resolve to make sure AAUW priority legislation — such as the Paycheck Fairness Act, Equal Employment Opportunity Restoration Act, Safe Schools Improvement Act, Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, High School Athletics Accountability Act, and Violence Against Women Act — is reintroduced in the 113th Congress. All bills that did not pass in the 112th Congress must be reintroduced to move forward, and I resolve that AAUW will continue to lead efforts to gain co-sponsors for our priority legislation.

Anne Hedgepeth, government relations manager: I resolve to meet with the new members of the 113th Congress to introduce them to AAUW and our priority issues. We can be a great asset as they develop policy and figure out what to support over the coming two years. Plus, many of them already know about us thanks to the amazing work our branch and state organizations do locally. You can help by scheduling in-district meetings with your representatives and senators as well. E-mail us at advocacy@aauw.org if you need help scheduling or preparing for a meeting!

Beth Scott, regulatory affairs manager: I resolve to hold the Obama administration accountable to women and families by monitoring new federal regulations and making sure they reflect AAUW’s public policy positions. For example, in 2013 there should be new rules to make sure women and girls are treated fairly by insurance companies and have access to the medical care they need and deserve, such as contraception. I’ll make sure AAUW reviews those rules and works with the federal agencies to draft the most inclusive and strongest possible laws to protect our rights.

Liz Owens, political media coordinator: I resolve to make an AAUW priority issue “trend” (be one of the most popular topics) nationwide on Twitter this year and to help brand AAUW as a leading voice on our priority issues. That means engaging with top influencers, activists, journalists, and you to spread the word about our work. Get us started by following @AAUWPolicy on Twitter! And help brand topics such as #fairpay, #highered, #STEM, #TitleIX, #VAWA, #pellgrants, and #reprorights as our priority issues by adding @AAUW to your tweets.

Kimberly Fountain, state grassroots advocacy manager: I resolve to show off the public policy accomplishments of AAUW state organizations and branches. As we saw in the It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard campaign, our state organizations and branches are full of innovative ideas, from AAUW of Colorado creating temporary tattoos for millennials to the AAUW Omaha (NE) Branch registering voters at a Zumba class. I want to share these and more exciting accomplishments through social media, our website, e-mails to AAUW members and supporters, Outlook magazine, and other outlets. You can help us by sending media coverage, photos, and stories of your branch’s events to advocacy@aauw.org.

And finally, my resolution as grassroots advocacy coordinator is to grow the AAUW Action Network by 50 percent in 2013 so that we can make our voices in Washington, D.C., even louder. AAUW Action Network, the cornerstone of AAUW’s e-advocacy efforts, e-mails notices about the latest legislation and urges subscribers to contact their members of Congress. You can help me fulfill this resolution right now by subscribing to the AAUW Action Network! Already a subscriber? Share this image with three friends, and encourage them to join you!

What’s your advocacy resolution? How will you help fulfill AAUW’s mission of advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy? Please share in the comments!

Action Network New Years

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face_of_pay_equity_150x225The new year may be right around the corner, but it will take an extra four months for women’s earnings to catch up to men’s earnings from the year before. The symbolic day when women’s earnings finally make up the 23 percent difference is known as Equal Pay Day. As usual, AAUW will host special events and distribute resources to help celebrate the work that has been done and that still needs to be done to ensure women receive equal pay for equal work.

It is never too early to start preparing for Equal Pay Day — April 9, 2013. This year will be especially important, as 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act.

What will your state or branch do to observe Equal Pay Day? AAUW has updated our Pay Equity Resource Kit with suggested ideas for action, facts and figures about pay equity, the latest AAUW research, and step-by-step instructions for planning activities. Here is just a sampling of what the resource kit can help you accomplish:

  • Organize reading and discussion sessions. Lilly Ledbetter’s book, Grace and Grit, would make a great selection!
  • Issue a press release for Equal Pay Day. A sample press release is included in the resource kit.
  • Hold in-district meetings with your members of Congress. The resource kit walks you through the process of requesting a meeting, preparing for that meeting, and following up with members of Congress and their staff afterward.
  • Complete a workplace pay audit for your office, and encourage branch and state members to do the same.
  • Organize a petition to show that there is a high level of popular support for pay equity legislation.
  • Conduct a public information campaign. You can raise awareness about the need for legislation to end discrimination against women in the labor market.
  • Ask your members of Congress and state legislators to sign a fair pay pledge. The resource kit includes sample pledges.

Download the complete AAUW Pay Equity Resource Kit today to get started! You can also request pay equity stickers and other materials by e-mailing advocacy@aauw.org.

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Lilly Ledbetter delivers Keynote at NCCWSL 2012Feminism has always been criticized as being preoccupied with advancing the interests of white, educated, middle-class women. While most women’s groups now take action on everything from racism to marriage equality to social security, the rhetoric of equal pay has at least the potential to emphasize the paychecks of the mostly white women at the top — even though a pay gap clearly exists between men and women in nearly every line of work and at every educational level.

So it’s a good thing that the equal-pay movement has been reignited by a woman who can inspire and motivate people from all walks of life. Lilly Ledbetter worked her way up the ladder at Goodyear Tire and Rubber and risked everything to file a pay discrimination lawsuit after an anonymous note tipped her off that she was being paid 40 percent less than her male peers were. She was doing the same job and had earned a top performance award at the company.

Last week, Ledbetter shared her frustrating story with the nearly 600 students at the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders, and her message helped inspire these up-and-coming workers to fight for pay equity as they begin their careers.

The audience was moved by Ledbetter’s clear-cut case and the heart-wrenchingly unjust Supreme Court decision that followed it — which said she should have filed her pay discrimination suit 18 years before she even knew she was being paid unfairly. A jury trial had previously awarded her damages and back pay, but Ledbetter never received a dime.

In her keynote address, Ledbetter told the audience that she grew up in one of the poorest counties in Alabama. Even though she was a manager at Goodyear, she and her husband struggled to pay the bills; the wages she lost to discrimination would have made a huge difference in their lives. Now, in her work as an equal-pay advocate, Ledbetter speaks passionately about the drastic effects the pay gap has on families like hers. Often, she says, it determines “whether they can buy food, pay the mortgage, and keep healthy.”

Ledbetter is one of many women who have stood up against industry giants to fight lengthy, expensive legal battles for equity in their hourly wages. Her words inspired the college women in the audience to fight for their own and all working women’s pay equity.

In the question-and-answer session afterward, conference-goers said they were touched by Ledbetter’s story, and one even called her a “rock star.” When they asked what they could do to help others and themselves, Ledbetter had a simple answer: Stand up for yourself, stay informed, and vote.

She urged the students to learn how to negotiate their salaries, because “if you don’t start now, you’ll never catch up.” But she also stressed the need to stay informed about local and national wage laws and the voting records of politicians — especially on the Paycheck Fairness Act, a law that would close loopholes in the 1963 Equal Pay Act.

“If the Paycheck Fairness Act had been law back then, I would have known how much less I was getting paid,” Ledbetter said.

Often called the “face of pay equity,” Ledbetter does more than show the human impact of the pay gap’s national statistics — that women make, on average, just 77 cents for every dollar men earn (the average is even lower for black women and Latinas). Her story and others like it refute the myth that the only thing separating men’s and women’s wages is hard work. These stories also show how working women — young and old, with and without diplomas, of any ethnic background — can unite to fight for the pay equity we all deserve.

That unity is further embodied in Ledbetter’s continued advocacy, even though she can no longer benefit from the laws she’s advocating for. “I made a decision in 1998 to stand up for myself. … My journey since then has been for you. Since that ruling came down, my case was over. If I can say something today that will change you in the audience, my goal will have been met.”

After her speech, Ledbetter left with hundreds of new fans who, thanks to her trailblazing, are that much closer to having what the president described when he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law in 2009 — that is, to having no limits to their dreams.

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Editor’s note: Today, the House of Representatives voted 233-180 against considering the Paycheck Fairness Act, and the Senate is also expected to vote on the bill next week. This post is adapted from the statement that Lilly Ledbetter submitted to the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on Wednesday.

Nobody wants to be the poster child for unequal pay for equal work, but that’s just what happened to me. Five years ago this week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against me in my sex discrimination case against Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. In that 5-4 ruling, the justices took away everything a jury of my peers had awarded me after being unfairly paid for years — even my back pay.

The court said I should have complained every time I got a smaller raise than the men, even if I didn’t know what the men were getting paid and even if I had no way to prove the decision was discriminatory. In other words, the court said if you don’t figure things out right away, a company can treat you like a second-class citizen for the rest of your career.

I won’t lie to you — I was pretty devastated by that decision. But instead of taking it quietly, I’ve been fighting back from the moment the court made its ruling. In 2009, President Barack Obama corrected this injustice by making the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act the first bill he signed into law. This law allows people to challenge every discriminatory paycheck they receive — it’s just common sense when you think about it.

But my legislation was only one stop on the road to fair pay. I’m on the front lines again, advocating for another bill that will bring us even closer to the dream of equal pay for equal work: the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Paycheck Fairness Act faces a critical vote in the Senate next week, and I’m so heartened to see the House making its own noise on an issue that is so near and dear to my heart.

The Paycheck Fairness Act is the first update to the 1963 Equal Pay Act since it was passed almost 50 years ago. You won’t find a stronger supporter of this bill than me. Why? Because it takes real steps to create stronger incentives for employers to follow the law, deterring pay discrimination before it even starts. Better still, these same steps reflect many of the common practices that other civil rights laws have used for years — bringing the Equal Pay Act into the 21st century while at the same time utilizing principles that are familiar to businesses. With the extension of these reasonable and familiar ideas, we can treat both businesses and women fairly. Take it from me, women don’t want to go to court — we’d much prefer that everyone just follow the law in the first place!

The bill would also establish new training and research initiatives and create education programs to help both employers and employees prevent situations like mine from ever happening at all. This bill would also strengthen federal outreach and enforcement efforts, helping to empower women to negotiate for equal pay.

From my perspective, one of the most important provisions of the bill would prohibit retaliation against workers who ask about employers’ wage practices or disclose their own wages to others. This provision would have been particularly helpful to me because Goodyear prohibited me and my colleagues from discussing or sharing information about our wages. They made it clear we could be fired if we did — and this was perfectly legal! This old-school policy delayed my discovery of the pay inequities between me and my male co-workers by almost 20 years. I only learned the details thanks to an anonymous tip I received shortly before my retirement. I still don’t know who sent me that note. They have been wise to stay silent because they could still be fired for sharing that simple truth with me.

I may have lost my personal battle, but I refuse to lose the war. I’m still fighting for all the other women and girls out there who deserve equal pay and equal treatment under the law. I need your help, because my law is just a down payment. I urge you to join me and my friends at AAUW to take action and tell your senators to move the Paycheck Fairness Act forward and pass a strong bill that will help women and their families.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Giving women my Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act without the Paycheck Fairness Act is like giving them a nail without the hammer.

This post was written by fair pay advocate and friend of AAUW Lilly Ledbetter.


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Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court of the United States Photo

“Women bring a different life experience to the table. All of our differences make the judicial conferences better. That I’m a woman is part of it.”

—   U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Did you know that for 140 years, there were no women in the federal judiciary? Think about it. It wasn’t until 1934 that Florence Allen, the first woman court of appeals judge, was appointed and confirmed to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. It took a recess appointment by President Harry Truman (a temporary appointment that does not require immediate consent from the Senate) to elevate Burnita Shelton Matthews, the first woman to serve on a U.S. district court, in 1950. Of course, we all know that Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman justice of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1981.

The passage of Title IX in 1972 and women’s increased participation in the workforce has meant a dramatic increase in the number of women practicing law. Indeed, the proportion of women in law school has increased from 3.7 percent in 1963 to 44 percent in 2008.

So now that women serve at all levels of the judiciary, up to and including the Supreme Court, our work for equality is done. Right? Not even close. A 2010 study found that only 22 percent of all seats in federal-level courts and 26 percent of all seats in state-level courts were held by women and that no single state has come close to reaching equality between men and women in the judiciary.

Not only can the federal courts be a shield for civil rights laws like Title IX and the Equal Pay Act, but they’re often also the last, best hope for women who have experienced discrimination in education, employment, health care, and other aspects of their lives. A strong judiciary is critical to American women.

We need to do more to support women in the federal judiciary by making sure women are in the career pipeline for these appointments and that the men and women who are nominated respect the unique role that the federal courts play in protecting women’s rights. The time to fight for true equity on our nation’s courts is now!

To learn how you can help, visit our AAUW Action Alert page and help promote judicial equity by urging your senators to move forward with judicial confirmations!

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As a young woman about to acquire a master’s degree and head out into a workforce beleaguered by recession and high unemployment, the gender wage gap weighs heavily on my mind. Why, after obtaining an equal education and entering the same job markets, should I make less money than my male friends? The answer is, of course, that I shouldn’t.

But 48 years after the Equal Pay Act became law and two years after the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was signed, women entering the exact same jobs with the exact same education as men are still paid 5 percent less, a gap that only increases across sectors and throughout our lifetimes.

Luckily for me and other women in the workforce, the current economic situation has turned the spotlight onto the critical need for fair pay more than ever before. Last week, Women’s Policy Inc., in cooperation with Reps. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Gwen Moore (D-WI) and the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, sponsored an event aimed at highlighting the impact of the gender wage gap on women and families and proposing possible solutions for achieving equal pay.

Lisa Maatz, AAUW’s director of public policy and government relations, spoke at the event. An expert on fair pay, Maatz expressed her confidence that the United States is on the cusp of major breakthroughs for women and their paychecks. Defining fair pay as a bipartisan issue, she emphasized that both legislative and extra-legislative steps are needed to close the wage gap between men and women. Maatz stated that in addition to passing legislation, federal and state agencies can actively support equal pay in the private sector by using existing resources to provide technical assistance, collect data on best practices, and properly fund equal pay enforcement organizations. She also said that increasing women’s and girls’ participation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields is a critical step toward closing the gender wage gap.

Warning that the so-called “man-cession” is too quickly becoming a “he-covery” focused on finding jobs for men, Maatz declared that now more than ever is the critical time to ensure women have equal access and equal pay to support their careers, their families, their households, and the entire economy.

As a young woman who would prefer to start her career without an automatic encumbrance based solely on gender, I couldn’t agree more.

If you want to take action on closing the wage gap and other issues important to women, sign up for the AAUW Action Network.

This post was written by Public Policy Intern Katie Donlevie.

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