4/04/2017 — 

WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to protect Americans from wage discrimination and eliminate the gender gap in U.S. workers’ pay, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today joined with U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) in reintroducing the Paycheck Fairness Act.  This legislation would help strengthen federal pay equity laws and ensure equal pay for equal work.

Today is the national observance of Equal Pay Day - the point in the year when an average American woman would have to work all of 2016 and then keep working until April 4, to earn the same amount of money that an average man doing the same job earned in 2016 alone.  Data released today from the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island indicate that 56 percent of minimum-wage workers in Rhode Island are women, and 71 percent of families with children living in poverty have a woman as head-of-household. 

The Paycheck Fairness Act builds on the promise of the Equal Pay Act, passed more than 53 years ago on June 10, 1963.  It would help close the gender gap in wages by empowering women to negotiate for equal pay, closing loopholes courts have created in the law, creating strong incentives for employers to obey the laws, and strengthening federal outreach and enforcement efforts.

“It is 2017, and we need to end gender pay disparity and close the opportunity gap.  Passing the Paycheck Fairness Act would be a major step forward in preventing gender discrimination in pay.  The persistent pay gap between men and women diminishes our entire economy, because many households across Rhode Island depend on women's salaries for either part or all of their family income.  So when women earn less for doing the same jobs as their male co-workers, it hurts families' ability to put food on the table, pay their bills, and save for retirement,” said Senator Reed.  “The American public support an honest wage for honest work and Congress should too.  I look forward to passing the Paycheck Fairness Act to help ensure equal pay for equal work so we can start marking future Equal Pay Days on December 31, not in early April.”

“While we’ve come a long way, many women are still taking home smaller paychecks than their male colleagues for the same work,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “I’m co-sponsoring the Paycheck Fairness Act because when women are paid fairly, it lifts up entire families and boosts our economy.”

Despite making up half the workforce, American women still make only 80 cents, on average, for every dollar earned by a man.  The difference in median income ? $51,212 for men and $40,742 for women ? amounts to an annual gap of $10,470 in lost wages for women.  That gap is even wider for women of color, with African American women making 63 cents on the dollar, and Hispanic women making only 54 cents, on average, compared with white men, according to the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

According to Census-based data, the top states that come the closest to wage equality between men and women are: New York (women earn 89 cents on the dollar compared to men), Delaware (89 cents), Florida (87 cents), Rhode Island (86 cents), North Carolina (86 cents), and California (86 cents).  The bottom five states with the biggest wage gaps are: Wyoming (64 cents), Louisiana (68 cents), West Virginia (71 cents), Utah (71 cents), and North Dakota (71 cents).

The Paycheck Fairness Act would strengthen and close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by holding employers accountable for discriminatory practices, ending the practice of pay secrecy, easing workers’ ability to individually or jointly challenge pay discrimination, and strengthening the available remedies for wronged employees.

In addition to Murray, Reed, and Whitehouse, original Senate cosponsors include U.S. Senators: Schumer (D-NY), Durbin (D-IL), Menendez (D-NJ), Coons (D-DE), Brown (D-OH), Udall (D-NM), Casey (D-PA), Baldwin (D-WI), Van Hollen (D-MD), Shaheen (D-NH), Gillibrand (D-NY), Klobuchar (D-MN), Markey (D-MA), Hirono (D-HI), Feinstein (D-CA), Manchin (D-WV), Heinrich (D-NM), Blumenthal (D-CT), Leahy (D-VT), Booker (D-NJ), Sanders (I-VT), Warren (D-MA), Stabenow (D-MI), Carper (D-DE), McCaskill (D-MO), Cantwell (D-WA), Franken (D-MN), Warner (D-WA), Harris (D-CA), Murphy (D-CT), Nelson (D-FL), Wyden (D-OR), Kaine (D-VA), Hassan (D-NH), Merkley (D-OR), Tester (D-MT), Duckworth (D-IL), and Bennet (D-CO).