Equal pay for equal work has been a rallying cry of the women’s movement and various civil rights organizations for some time, but a recent bill to extend and update the right to equal pay has been defeated in the U.S. Senate with only 52 votes in favor, 8 shy of the 60 votes needed to advance.
The bill in question was the Paycheck Fairness Act and it would have made it easier for a woman to take legal action if she felt her pay was not on par with men with equal experience, job title, seniority, etc. Often described as an updated version of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, many felt it was an update long overdue.
Opponents of the measure were concerned that such an act would place increased pressure on business to cut costs and could lead to greater levels of unemployment. Many of these same opponents also argued that the bill was unnecessary because current laws already protect women in this capacity and that adding another bill would overburden an already exhausted civil court system.
President Obama and most Democrats were pressing hard to get this bill through the Senate and Republicans immediately accused the Democrats of using this bill as an election year ploy. The supporters of the bill, opponents claim, are not that concerned about women’s pay and know the bill does not change the legal requirements for pay equity much at all. They are only using this measure to appeal more strongly to the women voters. Supporters quickly snapped right back, stating that, if it doesn’t change the current law much anyway, then why not support it.
Politics likely is part of the reason for introducing the bill at this time, but many feel that the Equal Pay Act is outdated and needs updating if women can ever expect to achieve pay equity with men. There are still countless occasions where a woman is paid less even though she is equal to a male in experience, education, etc., and the Paycheck Fairness Act would make it easier for a woman to take legal action and fight for equality, even though women can already do these things under current labor law provisions.
So, is the Paycheck Fairness Act necessary, or is it nothing more than election year politics as usual? Whichever way you feel, the act is dead for the time being since President Obama has already stated he does not intend to push it through via executive order. It will likely return at some other time for a
Copyright 2012, Bryan Carey