On Equal Pay Day, U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) are calling on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation that would combat wage discrimination and help close the wage gap by strengthening the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and ensuring women can challenge pay discriminations and hold employers accountable. The legislation is led by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03) and cosponsored by Reed and Whitehouse.
Equal Pay Day marks how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.
According to statistics compiled by the National Partnership for Women & Families, across the U.S., women still earn, on average, just 77 cents for every dollar paid to men, resulting in a gap of $11,782 each year—and the disparity is worse for women of color. In Rhode Island, the average, annual gender wage gap is $10,754, according the National Partnership for Women & Families.
“The gender wage gap is unfair and puts working women at a disadvantage. While progress has been made toward ending unequal pay practices, urgent action is required to put a stop to gender-based pay disparities,” said Senator Reed. “The Paycheck Fairness Act would strengthen equal pay protections and increase pay transparency, offering workers another tool to ensure they are fairly compensated by their employers. Passing this legislation will help combat pay discrimination, raise wages for more working women, and help strengthen our economy and get us closer to when we can commemorate Equal Pay Day on January 1st.”
“Women are consistently earning less than their male counterparts for the same work,” said Senator Whitehouse. “We’re calling for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act to close the pay gap and lift up women across Rhode Island.”
The gap exists in every state, regardless of geography, occupation, education, or work patterns. And it is worse for women of color: compared to white men, Black women are paid 64 cents, Latina women are paid 54 cents, Native American women are paid 51 cents, and Asian American and Pacific Islander women are paid as little as 80 cents. For a woman working full-time year-round, the current wage gap represents a loss of nearly $400,000 over the course of her career. The wage gap impacts women’s ability to save for retirement and reduces their total Social Security and pension benefits, contributing to more older women living in poverty.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who perform substantially equal work. Along with other key civil rights laws that followed, it helped change the workplace and began to combat wage inequality—but these laws have not been updated in decades and have not closed the persistent gap between women’s and men’s wages. In the last two decades, the pay gap has barely budged.
The Paycheck Fairness Act would eliminate loopholes in the Equal Pay Act, breaking harmful patterns of pay discrimination and strengthening workplace protections for women. It is included among President Biden’s gender equality priorities.
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