The Paycheck Fairness Act: Will It Go Anywhere?

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If you've been keeping up with Congress, pending legislation called the Paycheck Fairness Act might sound familiar.

Spearheaded by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), the act would require that employers explain pay disparities between men and women, so that said staffers would know whether the differences are sex-based or not. Also, the proposed law would prohibit employers "from retaliating against employees who discuss or disclose salary information with their co-workers." In addition, if a woman sued for pay discrimination, she would be able to get the same amount of money available under other race and ethnicity discrimination laws.

Harry Reid has just promised a vote next week. But reports have recently surfaced that put to question its viability.

For a bit of context, remember that a Paycheck Fairness Act was pitched in 2010, but failed 58-41.

And as with anything wage oriented, a lot of the upcoming debate will surely hinge on statistics, which are always the subject of disagreement.

One of the most polemic points is data suggesting that women make .77 on every dollar men do, which Gillibrand and others have used to back up the need for the act. This has stirred up quite a shitstorm, with some claiming that the numbers are not true when adjusted for education level.

Enter Sabrina L. Schaeffer, executive director of the Independent Women's Forum. On U.S. News and World Report, for example, she argued: "The differences in pay between men and women come down to choices. Choices women -- and men -- make have costs. More women than men choose to take time off to raise a family, but that's a far cry from discrimination. And costs are the result of a woman's freedom, not an injustice imposed on her by society."

Though we're yet to be convinced of this, the fact is that a lot of people will probably side with Schaeffer's point of view or that of other opponents such as Daniel Fisher, of Forbes.

Paraphrasing legal analysis, he claims that under the law:

"Employers must have one pay for a job, not only at the entry level, but throughout the organization. For example, what if a year after Fair Pay Shipping Co. hires John and Sally, John comes in and asks for a raise, but Sally does not. Under the existing law, Fair Pay Shipping is probably OK giving John a raise and not Sally. Not so if the Paycheck Fairness Act passes.

Therefore, companies will have far less flexibility in addressing different salary histories for new hires, different salary demands from existing employees, the size of pay raises for people promoted into new roles, and so on. The law would make these changes without real evidence that these steps will eliminate pay disparities between men and women or any thought on the impact of restricting a company's ability to respond to the different needs and demands of its employees."

Over at the Washington Post, Greg Sargent also doubts its success -- again, nodding to the bill's 2010 failure -- but says that it will probably be used by Dems as a major campaign talking point against their Republican opponents.

Three examples in what he calls the "next big battle in the war over women?"
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) reportedly plans on an "aggressive push" to prompt her rivals to explain their opposition to paycheck fairness. Elizabeth Warren also intends on highlighting Scott Brown's vote against the act in 2010 as "proof that he doesn't really have the middle class's interests at heart," a Massachusetts Democratic Party official told Sargent. Pols have mounted similar moves against the GOP in Virginia and Nevada.

Long story short: A lot of people support the PFA, but it looks like probably nearly as many people don't, for a variety of reasons. However, it's very likely that pols positions on this will have impact in upcoming Congressional races, as equal pay discussions might get tied to candidate's attitude toward the middle class.

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.



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2 comments
Cobranut
Cobranut

 There is a valid reason that women’s AVERAGE pay is less than men’s.

Many women take several YEARS off work to raise children, (a very worthwhile occupation) which reduces their seniority and causes them to fall behind in experience and technology, the result being that they are less productive when they return to work. It takes years to make up for this deficiency, and naturally an employer cannot pay them the same as someone who has stayed current in the same job.

If you include in your comparison only women who have not had children and have stayed continuously in their career their entire lives to men in the same circumstance, I’m sure you’ll find their pay rates to be similar.

The LAST thing we need now is MORE GOVERNMENT REGULATION to interfere with businesses expanding and hiring.

I urge all our congressmen to vote down this destructive bill and allow American businesses to grow and add to their workforce without interference from the federal government.

Business GROWTH will help EVERYONE, including women and every other minority group.

Jerry Boggs
Jerry Boggs

If you want a law that would close the gender wage gap literally almost overnight, pass a law that prohibits men from spending money on women, directly or indirectly, in marriage or out.

Here's why that would work:

Contrary to what pay-equity advocates say, “Women's 77 cents to men's dollar” does NOT mean women are paid less than men in the same jobs. Nor does it mean that, even more incredibly in the vein of “men are stronger than women” (which means to many that every man is stronger than every woman), every woman earns 23% less than every man, perhaps leading some of the more benighted and the blinkered ideological to believe Diane Sawyer of ABC News earns less than the young man walking back and forth on the street wearing a “Pizzas $5” sign.

The figures are arrived at by comparing the sexes' median incomes: women's median is 77 percent of men's. In 2009, the median income of full-time, year-round workers was $47,127 for men, compared to $36,278 for women or 77 percent of men's median.

Median means 50% of workers earn above the figures and 50% below. That means that a lot of female workers in the higher ranges of women's median make more money than a lot of male workers in the lower ranges of men's median.

“Women's 77 cents to men's dollar” doesn't account for the number of hours worked each week, experience, seniority, training, education or even the job description itself. It compares all women to all men, not people in the same job with the same experience. So the salary of a 60-year-old male computer engineer with 30 years at his company is weighed against that of a young first-year female teacher. Also, men are much more likely than women to work two jobs; hence, more often than women, a man earning $50,000 from his two jobs is weighed against a women earning $25,000 from her one job, so that he appears to be unfairly earning twice as much as she.

Strategically ignoring this over the decades has been less than productive:

No law yet has closed the gender wage gap — not the 1963 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, not Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, not the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, not the 1991 amendments to Title VII, not affirmative action (which has benefited mostly white women, the group most vocal about the wage gap - http://tinyurl.com/74cooen), not diversity, not the countless state and local laws and regulations, not the horde of overseers at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and not the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.... Nor will a "paycheck fairness" law work.

That's because women's pay-equity advocates, who always insist one more law is needed, continue to overlook the effects of female AND male behavior:

Despite the 40-year-old demand for women's equal pay, millions of wives still choose to have no pay at all. In fact, according to Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of "The Secrets of Happily Married Women," stay-at-home wives, including the childless who represent an estimated 10 percent, constitute a growing niche. "In the past few years,” he says in a CNN report at http://tinyurl.com/6reowj, “many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home.” (“Census Bureau data show that 5.6 million mothers stayed home with their children in 2005, about 1.2 million more than did so a decade earlier....” at http://tinyurl.com/qqkaka. If indeed a higher percentage of women is staying at home, perhaps it's because feminists and the media have told women for years that female workers are paid less than men in the same jobs — so why bother working if they're going to be penalized and humiliated for being a woman.) As full-time mothers or homemakers, stay-at-home wives earn zero. How can they afford to do this while in many cases living in luxury? Because they're supported by their husband, an “employer” who pays them to stay at home.

The implication of this is probably obvious to 10-year-olds but seems incomprehensible to or is ignored by feminists and the liberal media: If millions of wives are able to accept NO wages, millions of other wives, whose husbands' incomes range from moderate to high, are able to:

-accept low wages-refuse overtime and promotions-choose jobs based on interest first, wages second — the reverse of what men tend to do-take more unpaid days off-avoid uncomfortable wage-bargaining (http://tinyurl.com/3a5nlay)-work part-time instead of full-time (“According to a 2009 UK study for the Centre for Policy Studies, only 12 percent of the 4,690 women surveyed wanted to work full time”: http://bit.ly/ihc0tl See also an Australian report at http://tinyurl.com/862kzes)

All of which LOWER WOMEN'S AVERAGE AND MEDIAN PAY.

Women are able to make these choices because they are supported — or anticipate being supported — by a husband who must earn more than if he'd chosen never to marry. (Still, even many men who shun marriage, unlike their female counterparts, feel their self worth is tied to their net worth.) This is how MEN help create the wage gap: as a group they pass up jobs that interest them for ones that pay well. If the roles were reversed so that men raised the children and women raised the income, men would average lower pay than women.

Points to ponder:

Why would "greedy, profit-obsessed" employers, many of whom hire cheap illegal aliens to keep labor costs down, pay men more than women for the same work? If employers could get away with that, they would not hire one man, ever.

The power in money is not in earning it (there is only responsibility, sweat, and stress in earning money). The power in money is in SPENDING it. And, Warren Farrell says in “The Myth of Male Power” at http://www.warrenfarrell.org/T..., "Women control consumer spending by a wide margin in virtually every consumer category." (Women's control over spending, adds Farrell, gives women control over TV programs.)

“There were fewer cases charging sex-based wage discrimination last year than the year before the [Ledbetter law] was signed, and the wage gap was wider in 2010 than it was in 2007.... The bottom line: In Obama’s first three years in office, the EEOC filed six gender-based wage discrimination lawsuits — down from 18 during Bush’s second term." -BusinessWeek, May 13, 2012, at  http://www.businessweek.com/ar... and at  http://www.businessweek.com/ne...

Excerpted from "Will the Ledbetter Act Help Women?" at http://malemattersusa.wordpres...

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