Monday, June 9, 2008

Happy 45th Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act!

Forty-five years ago, on June 10 1963, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, making it illegal to pay different people different amounts for the same work. Huzzah!

Fat lot of good it did, though, as white women are still payed 77 cents to every white man's dollar, African-American women are payed 66 cents to a white man's dollar and Latina women earn 53 cents to a white man's dollar. Across the board through all different kinds of fields and education levels, unequal pay according to gender persists in the American economy and workforce as institutionalized sexism.

Well, what about "women's choices"? You know, the stuff like makin' babies and dinner - those "women's choices" to put family first, because you know women with careers don't think about their families at all. The National Women's Law Center says, "Recent authoritative studies show that even when all relevant career and family attributes are taken into account, there is still a significant, unexplained gap in men's and women's earnings. Thus, even when women make the same career choices as men and work the same hours, they earn less."

Ok, so unequal pay isn't a result of career choices and persists regardless of socio-economic or racial categories, which means that it hurts everyone - men, women, children, families, single people, divorced, disabled, widowed, people with brown hair, people with black hair, people with five fingers, people who shave their legs and even those hippies and feminist-crazies who don't.

Here's what you can do:

Support the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which says that people can sue for pay discrimination within 180 days of their last paycheck, not 180 since their first paycheck. That means that if you've been working at the same company for five years and you've recently discovered that you're the victim of pay discrimination since hiring, you can sue your company for the past five years of pay discrimination. This new law would replace the recent Supreme Court ruling stating that people can only sue for pay discrimination within 180 days of the first incident. So if you've been paid unfairly for the past five years, you would have needed to discover the discrimination and sue within the first three months. In a society that's cultured not to discuss wages, especially among women, it's pretty damn hard to discover pay discrimination within three months of starting a new job/new salary. Not to mention this means that any women currently experiencing pay discrimination in their jobs (perhaps of many years or decades) would be screwed.

Here's info on the Fair Pay campaign, a fact sheet produced by the National Women's Law Center, and most important, a letter to your senator supporting the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. If you live in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, Florida, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, or Virginia, one or both of your senators voted against the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act the first time around. You need to write them and tell him/her to get their ass in gear and support the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. I'm looking at you, Alabamians, Alaskans, Indianians, Iowans, Floridians, Nebraskans, New Mexicans, North Carolinians, Ohioans, Texans, and Virginians (who we all know are for lovers). Get on the ball and make sure your senator(s) know you're not happy with the way they're representing you.


Anonymous said...

Sure, equal pay is a great idea...

Provided women abandon all forms of maternity leave, including paid.

That's why women tend to get paid less. Statistically, the vast majority of women will eventually have a child.

Yes, even the ones that swear when they're 16 that they're never going to have kids. Those too. Most have them.

As such, employers have to take into account that this woman may very well leave the company in a lurch for 6-8 weeks, many times demanding pay, and forcing the employer to hire a temp, AND pay them as well.

Therefore, the employer is out two employees salary, with only one employee worth of labor.

They have to make up the difference somewhere. Men are not subject to this, because men don't have babies, and don't usually take any sort of paternity leave from work.

Yes, some of you may speak up that this is unfair, because YOU aren't going to be having babies, so why should you be penalized?

Well, tell that to all the men who have to pay higher car insurance, despite never having had a wreck that was their fault, all because men tend to have more car accidents as a group.

Does it suck for those women that really won't ever have kids? Yes. Just like it sucks for those careful drivers that also happen to have a penis.

Anonymous said...

this is a great post, very fact packed. my state can be so backward, i signed the petition.

Lindsay said...

Anony, your comment is based around the assumption that unequal pay is based on maternity leave, which isn't true. So everything you have said means nothing to me.

la mestiza, thanks for signing the petition!

Anonymous said...

Anony, your comment is based around the assumption that unequal pay is based on maternity leave, which isn't true. So everything you have said means nothing to me.

Can you prove that that isn't a factor?

an.optimistic.cynic said...


I won’t disagree with you that a majority of women will eventually choose to have children (though, without hard numbers I can’t say that it’s an accurate statement).
The problem is that pay discrimination does NOT take into account any reliable criteria.
For example, simply finding a potential employee may be in possession of a vagina really isn’t a reliable indicator that she will breed litters of young the moment she’s hired. Perhaps said female has met her nuclear family quotient of 2.5 kids and isn’t interested in having more. Maybe she has gone through “the Change” and is incapable of having any more children. It’s possible that said female – for numerous and sundry reasons – cannot have children. In all the above cases, maternity leave is a moot point.
Which brings us to what may be your first objection: you already brought up the analogy of car insurance. Using such justification, shouldn’t employers be permitted to pay their white male employees LESS as they age? After all, their chances of cancer, heart attack, diabetes, etc, increase as they age, more so than women. Even if some don’t have these problems, an employer is burdened by those who do. They will have to ask for time off – paid – forcing the company to hire a temp; effectively, the company is paying for two employees while only receiving half the work.
Of course, you could argue that the percentage of men who require such care is lower than that of the percentage of women who will require maternity leave, which justifies lower pay. Using such justification, shouldn’t employers begin basing pay not just on gender, but race, weight, height, birth order, socio-economic status? I daresay there are many very unhealthy men who over their career will end up taxing the resources of their company more severely than a woman who “might” use up to eight weeks of unpaid leave (not many companies will offer paid leave, and not many families can afford to go without a major source of income for so long).

Amelia said...

Great post, Lindsay! I was very happy to get back from playing soccer to see this. Excellent.
I am going to go make a small post whose main point will be directing people to yours.

Nice work, and thanks for this post.

Habladora said...

Sweet post, Lindsay. Watch for the link...

Maxine said...

This is great info to know.