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On National Equal Pay Day, Murray Urges Action on Paycheck Fairness

Apr 08 2014

Nationally, women on average earn 77 cents on the dollar to do the same work as men; in Seattle last year, women earned just 73 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts

Murray: “This isn’t just unfair to women—it’s bad for families and it’s bad for our economy.”

Today,  U.S. Senator Patty Murray will delivered a speech on the Senate floor in support of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would address pay discrimination by ramping up enforcement of equal pay laws and strengthening assistance to businesses to improve equal pay practices.  As the role of women in families and in the economy has shifted dramatically in the last few decades, with 60 percent of families now relying on earnings from both parents, Murray called for immediate action. Equal Pay Day marks how far into the current year women must work in order to match what their male counterparts earned in 2013.

Senator Murray’s remarks, as prepared:

“I want to start off by expressing my thanks and appreciation to Senator Mikulski for her leadership in the fight for equal pay, and for bringing the Paycheck Fairness Act to the forefront of the debate this session.

“The role of women in families and in our economy has shifted dramatically in the last few decades. 

“Today, 60 percent of families rely on earnings from both parents—up from 37 percent in 1975.

“Women make up nearly half of our workforce.

“And more than ever, women are likely to be the primary breadwinner in their families.

“Women are making a difference across our economy, in board rooms and lecture halls and small businesses.

“But despite the important progress we have made since the Equal Pay Act passed fifty years ago—including passing the Lilly Ledbetter Act of 2009 to give women more tools to fight pay discrimination—women’s wages still haven’t caught up with the times.

“Across the country, women still earn 77 cents on the dollar on average to do the same work as men.

“It would take a typical woman until today to earn what a man would earn for the same work in 2013.

“This difference really adds up.

“In Seattle, Washington last year, women earned 73 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts—and that translated to a yearly gap of $16,346.

“Nationwide, over a typical women’s lifetime, pay discrimination amounts to $464,320 in lost wages.

“M. President, this isn’t just unfair to women—it’s bad for families and it’s bad for our economy.

“At a time when more and more families rely on women’s wages to put food on the table, stay in their homes, build a nest egg for retirement, and help pay for their children’s education…

“It is absolutely critical that we do more to eliminate pay discrimination and unfairness in the workplace.

“The Paycheck Fairness Act would tackle pay discrimination head-on.

“It would ramp up enforcement of equal pay laws and strengthen assistance to businesses to improve equal pay practices.

“M. President, I hope we can all agree that in the 21st century, workers should be compensated based on how they do their jobs—not whether they are male or female.

“And I hope we’ll be able to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act as quickly as possible for working women and their families.

“But M. President, we can’t stop there.

“We will need to build on these critical reforms with other steps toward giving women a better, and fairer, shot at getting ahead.

“One out of four women in the United States would benefit from raising the minimum wage.

“That’s 15 million American women who are making the equivalent of about two gallons of gas per hour.

“It’s clearly time to raise the minimum wage and give working women across the country some much-deserved relief.

“And M. President, there are other ways we can and should update our policies to help working women and their families make ends meet.

“For example—thanks to our outdated tax code, a woman thinking about re-entering the workforce as a second earner will likely face higher tax rates than her husband.

“That would come in addition to increased costs for child care, transportation, and the possibility of losing tax credits and other benefits as her household’s income rises.  

“All of this can mean struggling families will experience higher tax rates than what many of the wealthiest Americans pay.

“And it can discourage a potential second earner, like a mother considering re-entering the workforce, from returning to her professional career.

“I recently introduced the 21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act, which would help solve this problem by giving struggling two earner families with children a tax deduction on the second earner’s income.

“The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates this change would cut taxes by an average of $700 for 7.3 million families next year.

“The 21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act would also expand the EITC for childless workers and lower the eligibility age, so that people without dependents and young workers just starting out can also benefit from the credit.

“The bill has bipartisan roots, M. President.

“It builds on work incentives in the EITC and is paid for by getting rid of wasteful corporate tax loopholes both Ways and Means Chairman Camp and Democrats agree should be closed.

“Opinion leaders from across the political spectrum have said the 21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act would provide much-needed relief to workers and families.

“One conservative commentator wrote in the National Review that the 21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act is a “serious proposal that has the potential to better the lives of a large number of workers.”

“And a New York Times editorial columnist said it would be “a huge benefit to low-income childless families and two-earner families.”

“So I am hopeful that here in Congress, we will see similar support on both sides of the aisle for a bill that would help women and working families keep more of what they earn.

“M. President, we have come a long way in terms of the opportunities women have in our country today—but there is no question we have a lot more to do.

“If we take these steps I’ve discussed, we’ll do so much to break down the very real barriers that still exist.

“We’ll help working women and their families today—we’ll strengthen our economy—and we’ll expand opportunity for the next generation of women who enter the workforce.

“I urge my colleagues to support the Paycheck Fairness Act, and then build on this important step by continuing to help level the playing field for American women and their families.

“Thank you and I yield the floor."