Senate Republicans Block Paycheck Fairness Act

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Just three days into the lame-duck Congress, every Republican in the U.S. Senate voted to prevent the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 182) from coming to the floor. The final 58-41 vote on Nov. 17 fell two votes short of the 60 needed to break the Republican-imposed logjam. The House of Representatives passed the bill last year. If enacted, the act would help close the wage gap between women and men.

"More than a decade into the 21st century, it is astonishing that there are those who do not believe a woman has the right to receive the full paycheck she has earned," AFT president Randi Weingarten says. "Women's wages have remained static for decades, and they typically earn about 77 cents for every $1 that men earn for the same work. This legislation would have gone a long way toward leveling the playing field for women by eliminating loopholes in current law that have created systemic wage gaps between men and women."

The vote came on the same day that the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) released a survey showing the prevalence of keeping salaries secret—one of the key reasons employers are able to get away with paying women less than men.

Pay secrecy is much more common in the private sector, where 61 percent of employees said they are either discouraged or prohibited from discussing wage and salary information. That figure is only 14 percent for employees in the public sector.

"The gender wage gap in the federal government—with high levels of pay transparency—is only 11 percent," says Barbara Gault, vice president and executive director of IWPR. The gender wage gap in the economy as a whole is 23 percent. Pay secrecy is part of the reason for this difference, and the Paycheck Fairness Act could help.

Weingarten pledges that the AFT "will continue to advocate for bills like this one that ensure women receive the pay they have earned and deserve." [Dan Gursky, AFT press release, AFL-CIO Now]

November 18, 2010