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Posts Tagged ‘Paycheck Fairness 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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capitol dome

The 112th Congress officially adjourned Wednesday, ending what’s been described as the least productive Congress ever. For some context, just 219 bills passed by the 112th Congress have been signed into law. The Congress before that passed 383 bills, and the one before that saw 460 bills signed into law. Clearly, a lot of important work was left unfinished and will have to be taken up by the 113th.

For one thing, the 112th didn’t pass the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA), a much-needed update to the Equal Pay Act of 1963. AAUW is a strong supporter of this legislation and led efforts to bring it before both chambers for a vote. Unfortunately, the PFA didn’t get the required procedural votes, so it will have to be reintroduced in the 113th Congress.

Another item still on Congress’ to-do list is the passage of an inclusive Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization. The Senate passed an AAUW-supported, bipartisan, comprehensive VAWA in April 2012, while the House of Representatives passed a different, damaging bill the following month. Due to resistance in the House, the two bills were not reconciled, and the reauthorization was not passed.

In addition to PFA and VAWA, the 113th Congress will face many other items on its agenda:

  • The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which sets parameters for K–12 education and funding, is due for reauthorization. AAUW will be paying attention to many issues during this process, including
    • upholding Title IX protections,
    • opposing private school vouchers,
    • ensuring that charter schools are held to the same standards as other schools,
    • requiring that schools be held accountable for demonstrating that they are meeting educational goals for all students,
    • opposing single-sex education programs that don’t pay proper attention to civil rights protections, and
    • supporting requirements that schools collect comprehensive data on student achievement and graduation.
  • The Higher Education Act, which is the most significant federal law for American colleges and universities, is up for reauthorization. AAUW supports increasing access to higher education for traditional and nontraditional students.

We’re also keeping pressure on the Obama administration. AAUW believes President Obama should pay attention to women’s priorities, especially since women’s votes decided the 2012 election. See AAUW’s list of what Obama should do on day one of his new term.

These are some of our top priorities for the 113th Congress. What are yours?

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My pal Lilly Ledbetter will be on The Colbert Report on Halloween. I think it’s only fair that I issue a warning to Mr. Colbert: I think he may have finally met his match. I’m thinking he won’t know what to do with the lethal combination of her sweet Southern drawl, her infectious laugh, and her front-row perspective on history.

My friendship with Lilly continues to be one of the great privileges of my life. The friendship has taken me all over the United States — to AAUW National Conventions (she hasn’t missed one since 2009), to various AAUW state conventions around the country, and to the Democratic National Conventions in 2008 and 2012. We’ll do New Orleans together for AAUW’s 2013 National Convention in June. I do some of her letter- and speech-writing, and she mentioned me in her book.

This great friendship formed despite meeting under unfortunate circumstances: The U.S. Supreme Court had just ruled against Lilly in its wrongheaded May 2007 decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. Lilly and I lobbied Capitol Hill together after the decision came down. Our work helped pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and we grew even closer as we lobbied together over the years on the Paycheck Fairness Act. Since 2009, Lilly and I have worked tirelessly to pass this important legislation to close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Throughout our advocacy work, Lilly has always marveled, “How is it possible you’re not a lawyer?” I always respond, ”I just play one on TV.”

But she’s not just a friend of mine — she’s a friend to AAUW. Lilly has taken the time to get to know AAUW members across the country, and she does so because she sincerely enjoys it. She always tells me that sitting down with AAUW members is like relaxing in her own family room. She basically did just that with my own family recently. Much to our delight, Lilly had dinner with me, my mom, and my brother on a recent campaign swing through Ohio.

I expect that Colbert will throw a few curveballs Lilly’s way — and, considering the timing, he may even work in a Halloween costume or two. But I’m not worried. I know Lilly will handle his questions with aplomb, especially if he asks about her own Halloween costume. That one’s easy. She’s a feminist icon.

P.S. Interested in learning Lilly’s story and supporting future fair pay efforts? Everyone who donates $130 or more to AAUW receives a limited-edition copy of her book, Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond

Update: Watch the interview by following the link below:

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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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The war on women is everywhere these days. We’ve seen a parade of Mad Men-era ideas that have shocked women down to our toes, and the pay-gap issue has not escaped such ridiculousness. Yesterday, the Senate voted along party lines to block the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have taken real steps to get employers to follow the law and deter pay discrimination before it even starts. But the senators who opposed the bill didn’t stop the fight for equal pay — all they did was create a lot of mad women!

Lilly Ledbetter and AAUW Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Lisa Maatz meet with senior White House staff.

I had the privilege of lobbying yesterday alongside fair-pay icon Lilly Ledbetter, who flew up from her home in Alabama to campaign for the bill. She and I spent the whole day talking with White House staff, members of Congress, and the press about the importance of fair pay to women and our economy. Over and over, we told legislators that the pay gap is real and has real consequences. A woman is far more likely than a man to spend her golden years in poverty, in part because the pay gap starts as soon as she throws her graduation cap in the air. AAUW’s research has shown that just one year out of college, women working full time already earn less than their male colleagues earn — even when they have the same major and work in the same field. Our research found that the gender pay gap shows up in 107 out of 111 occupations regardless of education level — and women get the short end of the stick.

From left: Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), and Lilly Ledbetter speak at a Senate press conference

The Paycheck Fairness Act could address this, and that’s what’s so frustrating about yesterday’s vote. Not only do women deserve equal pay for equal work, they need equal pay to support themselves and their families. When women are paid unequally, everyone suffers.

I don’t know about you, but I’m going to keep fighting. I’m going to fight until every woman is treated equally and until she is paid according to her worth rather than outdated stereotypes.

It’s time for our paychecks and our national policies to catch up to the 21st century and to leave the nostalgia to television. Unequal pay has no place in today’s world.

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The Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 3220) is a commonsense bill that would deter wage discrimination by closing loopholes in current law. The bill takes meaningful steps to create incentives for employers to follow the law, empower women to negotiate for equal pay, and strengthen federal outreach and enforcement efforts. It would also bar retaliation against employees who disclose their own wages. Without this bill, employers can penalize and even fire workers for talking about their salaries. This egregious practice leaves employees in the dark and prevents them from finding out about pay discrimination in the workplace.

AAUW and fair-pay advocate Lilly Ledbetter, the author of Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond, have been working hard to get the word out on Capitol Hill. Ledbetter even gave AAUW and Lisa Maatz, our director of public policy and government relations, a shout-out during her appearance on the Rachel Maddow Show on Monday night.

Watch the clip below, read about last week’s House vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, and stay tuned to find out more about how the Senate vote turns out.

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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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