National Consumers League

The 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act is a reminder that there is more work to be done

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By Michell K. McIntyre, Director of NCL’s Special Project on Wage Theft “When women enter the labor force they will find equality in their pay envelopes,” declared President John F. Kennedy as he signed the Equal Pay Act into law on June 10th, 1963. Today marks the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy signing the Equal Pay Act, making equal pay for equal work the law of the land. In 1963, women were paid just 56 cents for every dollar men made. While times have changed, the wage gap between men and women remains. Today, women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes – better but still far from equal. Equal pay is not only a question of equality – it’s a question of morals, economics and family values. The wage gap means less money for the needs of families across the nation – less money for rent, groceries, child care and medical bills. The newly published PEW Research Center study shows that in 40 percent of households with children, mothers are either the sole or primary breadwinners. This type of wage discrimination hurts us all. This practice unfairly targets children in households with single mothers, same-sex couples, and families where both parents work. The pay gap, when calculated over the course of a year, means women receive on average $11,084 less than men performing similar work. That figure is increased among African American women and Hispanic women, who make $19,575 and $23,873 less respectively than a white non-Hispanic male performing the same job. Using these figures, the National Women’s Law Center estimates that women make on average $443,360 less over the course of their careers. That is a huge sum of money when trying to put a child through college, buying healthy groceries for the dinner table, or paying the rent. Despite the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill signed into law by President Obama in 2009, more work needs to be done to ensure women have the resources and tools they need to confront discrimination and challenge unfair practices in the courts. Current law forces women to jump through too many hoops in order to make claims of gender discrimination. The Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 84 & H.R. 377) would reduce those obstacles and lower those walls in an attempt to finally achieve equal pay for equal work. After 50 years, women are still struggling to find equality in their paychecks, it’s time to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act!