News Releases

Murray Speaks Out for Equal Pay Legislation at Senate Hearing

Apr 12 2007

Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing On "Closing the Gap: Equal Pay for Women Workers"

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for calling this hearing to examine the persistent barriers to equal pay for women in the workforce. I want to thank our witnesses for being here today and for their contribution to our discussion.

For me, this is a question of fundamental fairness. No one should have to face pay discrimination in the workplace. It's unfair and unacceptable.

I think it's important to recognize that the wage gap doesn't just hurt women. It hurts their children and their spouses too, so everyone has a stake in ending this discrimination. In a national study, the Institute for Women's Policy Research and the AFL-CIO found that, collectively, America's working families are losing $200 billion in income each year as a result of the on-going gender wage gap. And their study accounted for differences in other factors like age, education, and hours worked.

That amounts to an average annual loss of $4,000 for each working woman's family. Imagine what parents and spouses could do with this lost income and the dramatic effect that equal pay would have on individual families.

It's not just women who would benefit from equal pay. According to the same study, equal pay would equate to a reduction in poverty rates for women and their families. Poverty rates for single mothers would be cut in half. Imagine that - we could lift half of working single mothers out of poverty by ending gender wage discrimination. The poverty rates of married working women would fall by more than 60 percent. It's clear to me and to America's working families that this issue should be important to all of us, whether we are male or female.

Throughout history, women have played a vital role in our economic prosperity although they haven't always received equal reward for their work. Since the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, women have made great strides in narrowing the wage gap. In 1963, a woman working full-time, year-round, earned just 58.9 percent as much as her male counterpart. Unfortunately, that number has only increased to 77 percent as of 2005.

Clearly, barriers to equal pay still persist in today's labor market. It's time to confront these barriers and find out what we can do to make equal pay a reality for working women and their families.

I'm proud to co-sponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Fair Pay Act -- two important pieces of legislation that will help eliminate some of these barriers. I'm especially pleased that these bills enhance enforcement and encourage businesses to be forward-thinking in this area.

The Paycheck Fairness Act prohibits employer retaliation against employees who freely share salary information with one another. It allows women who have experienced discrimination to recover more than just back pay for lost wages. It calls for the government to enhance outreach and training efforts with employers and calls for more data about wage disparities. It also supports women as they individually confront these barriers by establishing a negotiation skills training program.

Equally important, the Fair Pay Act addresses ethnic and racial discrimination encountered by women of color. It requires businesses to provide equal pay for jobs of comparable value and allows workers discriminated against because of gender, race, or national origin to file a complaint.

Finally, these bills recognize exemplary employers who are making positive strides in equal pay by establishing a national award program.

Unfair discrimination in the workplace should not be tolerated in any form. As a mother and a grandmother, I want my children to live in a country where my daughter can earn just as much as my son. It's time to address this issue and finally close the wage gap for working women and their families.