With House Passage, DeLauro pushes to get paycheck fairness over goal line

April 2, 2019

WASHINGTON - Rep. Rosa DeLauro is optimistic the third time actually will be the charm for her Paycheck Fairness Act, which passed the Democratic-controlled House last week for the third time since 2008 but faces an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled Senate.

“We are on our way,” she said to cheers at a meeting of the Democratic Women’s Caucus at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday. “It is about giving women the power to gain economic security for themselves and their families.”

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it illegal to pay unequal wages to women for the same job held by men. DeLauro’s Paycheck Fairness Act, which she has introduced 12 times dating back to 1997, would close loopholes that employers use to pay women less than men who perform the same work.

DeLauro cited U.S. Census data that women are paid 80 cents for every dollar earned by men in the same positions.

“So many Americans are stuck in jobs that do not pay them enough to live on,” DeLauro said. “It’s not a partisan issue. It is a matter of right and wrong, and simple fairness.”

Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., introduced DeLauro as the “Godmother of pay equity.” In her 15th term on Capitol Hill, DeLauro has proposed a laundry list of bills aimed at uplifting workers - particularly women - on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.

Among them are paid family medical leave, paid sick days, and “schedules that work” - a bill that would bring greater predictability and stability to low-wage workers subject to abrupt and disruptive work-schedule changes.

Wednesday was Equal Pay Day, calculated each year to mark the day on the calendar when the average woman finally is paid the total of what an average man earned in the previous year for the same work

The National Committee on Pay Equity started observance of the day in 1996.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would allow workers to compare notes on salaries without fear of retaliation.

It would also prohibit employers from requiring prospective workers to provide salary histories, or screening applicants based on salary history. It would also give women charging pay discrimination new legal leverage to challenge employers in court.

Women filing wage-discrimination claims would the same remedies as plaintiffs charging racial or ethnic discrimination under federal civil rights law.

Among those at the meeting Tuesday was Hollywood star Michelle Williams, who entered the fray on pay equity after finding out that a male co-star, Mark Wahlberg, made $1.5 million for reshoots of a film ironically titled “All the Money in the World.” Williams was paid $80 a day.

“Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act,” Williams said. “This is a critical moment. Please don’t let it pass unpassed.”

The House last week approved the bill by a vote of a vote of 242-187, with eight Republicans voting “yes.”

But passage of the bill in 2008 and 2009 did not result in enactment. In 2009, the measure got dropped at the last minute from the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which overruled a Supreme Court decision that restricted the time period allowed for filing wage-discrimination complaints.

Notwithstanding House passage this year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., may choose not to bring it to a floor vote at all.

Even so, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., spoke on the Senate floor on Tuesday in favor of the Senate version, which she introduced.

“It’s outrageous that we still don’t have equal pay for equal work in the United States in the year 2019,” Gillibrand said.