News Releases

Murray: Pay Discrimination Hurting Women, Families

Apr 22 2008

On Equal Pay Day, Murray urges colleagues to stand up for women and minorities and support Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to restore workers' right to challenge pay discrimination

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, on Equal Pay Day, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) decried the nationwide gap in pay between men and women, urged passage of the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that would give employees tools to challenge pay discrimination, and highlighted how pay discrimination hurts families and social security

"Even though women are doing the same jobs as men and working just as hard every day they still aren’t equal on one important day – payday," said Senator Murray. "On payday, women will take home just 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male co-workers."

"The disparity hurts millions of families.  In almost 10 million households, mothers are the only breadwinners. Think of how much better off families would be if women were paid a wage equal to men – especially as our economic downturn grows worse, and everyday expenses rise."

In a speech on the Senate floor, Murray urged action to strengthen wage discrimination laws. Specifically, Murray called for passage of the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act which would allow workers to file a claim within 180 days of any discriminatory paycheck.  The legislation would reverse last year's Ledbetter v. Goodyear Supreme Court decision that makes it significantly difficult for workers who suffer pay discrimination to seek justice.

The full text of Senator Murray's Speech follows:

Mr. President, this Senate has a proud history of working across the aisle to pass civil rights laws.  Those historic laws ensure that all people in our nation have equal rights, regardless of race, religion, gender, or national origin.  I’m proud that they ensure that my daughter now has the right to work in the same jobs – and achieve the same success – as my son. 

But Mr. President, even though women are doing the same jobs as men – and working just as hard every day – they still aren’t equal on one important day – payday.  On payday, women will take home just 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male co-workers.  And the pay gap is even wider for African-American and Latino women.  African-American women earn 67 cents, and Latino women earn just 56 cents for every dollar that a white man makes.


And so, Mr. President, I rise today – on Equal Pay Day – to recognize that we still have a lot of work to do to ensure fairness in our society.

The Pay Gap Starts Immediately and it Accumulates Over Years

Mr. President, the pay gap is true regardless of skill, or education.  And it’s so deeply ingrained in our society that many jobs dominated by women pay less than jobs dominated by men – even when the work they do is almost the same.  In my home state of Washington, a woman with a college degree earns about $20,000 less each year than a man with the same education.

According to a study by the American Association of University Women, the difference starts as soon as women enter the workforce.  AAUW found that within a year after graduating from college, a woman will already earn less than her male classmates in nearly every major.  And it’s a lifelong problem.  By the end of her career, a female worker will have lost an average of $250,000.

It Hurts Our Families

But Mr. President, I think it’s just as important to make it clear that the pay gap is a problem for everyone in our society.

The disparity hurts millions of families.  In almost 10 million households, mothers are the only breadwinners.  In many cases, those women are also supporting parents and other extended family members.  And in far too many of these households, women have to struggle to pay for rent, heat, food, and gas.

Think of how much better off families would be if women were paid a wage equal to men – especially as our economic downturn grows worse, and everyday expenses rise.  Mr. President, if women and men made an equal wage, single working women would have 17 percent more income each year.  Just ensuring that they earn a fair paycheck could cut their poverty rate in half.

It Hurts Social Security

Mr. President, the wage disparity also follows women into retirement.  Women are twice as likely to live in poverty over age 65.  And women are more dependent upon Social Security for a greater percentage of their retirement income.

Mr. President, all of us in this country are staring down a looming Social Security crisis.  Think of how much better off we would all be if women could save a little more for retirement, and contribute more to Social Security. 

We Have to Act to Prevent Rights from Being Eroded

Mr. President, my colleagues and I shouldn’t have to be here talking about this today.  I shouldn’t have to make the case for equal pay.  Not only is it a no-brainer – but fairness and equality are fundamental American values.

And Mr. President, we aren’t asking for special treatment.  We’re here because despite all the work that has been done to ensure equal rights, we haven’t achieved equality.  And we’re here because we run the risk that pay discrimination laws will grow weaker – not stronger – if we don’t act.

The Ledbetter Decision Set Workers Back 40 Years

Last May, the Supreme Court took a big step backward with its decision, Ledbetter v. Goodyear.  That decision went against Congress’s intent, and 40 years of EEOC practice.  And it made it almost impossible for workers who suffer pay discrimination to seek justice.

And so today – on Equal Pay Day – I’m urging my colleagues to support legislation that would reverse that decision, and ensure workers have a fair shot at fighting discrimination.

The Ledbetter decision requires many workers to file a claim within 180 days after their employer discriminates against them.  But it doesn’t recognize that in many cases, workers won’t know they were discriminated against for years – and it may take even longer to gather the proof. 

Mr. President, I think that sounds an awful lot like the Supreme Court is asking workers to be mind readers.  It’s unfair – and it’s not what Congress intended when we created the law in the first place. 

The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act would allow workers to file a claim within 180 days of any discriminatory paycheck.  It gives workers the ability to discover the facts and to challenge ongoing discrimination.

I also want to add that although the Ledbetter case involved gender discrimination, the decision applies to all kinds of discrimination – including religion, race, age, disability, or national origin.

Mr. President, our nation was founded on the principle that all of its citizens are created equal.  I think they should be equal on payday, too.  And 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.

Now is the time to ensure that can be true by strengthening our pay discrimination laws.  And now is the time to ensure the Senate’s history of protecting civil rights can’t be eroded.