Every single Republican in the Senate today voted to let employers intimidate their female employees.
The bill would have built on the 2009 Ledbetter legislation, which ended the statute of limitations on equal pay lawsuits. The new bill sought to bar companies from retaliating against workers who inquire about pay disparities and open pathways for female employees to sue for punitive damages in cases of paycheck discrimination.All the bill would do let women find out whether or not they were short-changed on their paychecks without the threat of retaliation or retribution from their employers. That, and it would disincentivize paycheck discrimination in the first place by making it possible for punitive damage to be awarded in discrimination cases. Basically, this was a vote to protect women from employer retribution and for employers to be responsible. Republicans in the Senate voted for employer intimidation and against holding employers accountable for something as simple as paycheck fairness.
President Obama has pushed hard for this legislation to protect women against hostile employer retaliation. Given the Republican party's unanimous opposition and no statement to the contrary, one has to reasonably assume that the Republican nominee-in-waiting, Mitt Romney, also opposes this bill. It's time to stop being fooled by Mitt Romney's lip service to "the concept" of equal pay, and understand that by refusing to stand up to his party and push for the Paycheck Fairness Act, Mitt Romney is in fact undermining equal pay.
Over a lifetime, the gender gap causes women to lose an average of a half a million dollars, as depicted by this graphic put out by the White House:
Maybe $431,00 is chump change to Mitt Romney, but it's a big deal to the vast majority of Americans and American families.
The wingnut response to this, of course, is that bills like the Paycheck Fairness Act is a solution in search for a problem and that there is no paycheck discrimination at the workplace, but women are responsible for their own lot in life because (a) they choose to work at professions that pay less, and (b) they choose to raise children (even though the wingnuts also want the state to force this choice). This response, we happen to know from research is completely bunk, as women make less than men in nearly every profession - including the ones dominated by women. Secondly, that this is considered a legitimate response instead of sparking a debate about why it is that we have a society that literally devalues work traditionally performed by women is a sad commentary on today's state of politics.
Some will say that today's vote was simply the Republicans denying a victory for the president in an election year. But the real losers in this vote isn't the president; it is women all across this country. It's women who will now be prevented from finding out in the first place if they are being discriminated against because of the fear of retaliation - possibly of losing their job. It's women who will not be able to obtain punitive damages for the discrimination that they suffer.
Who comes out the winner here? Corporations who wish to - and do - discriminate in women's paychecks illegally just to add to their profit margins. The winner in today's vote is the ideology that says the only rights related to the workplace belong to employers and not the employees.
It would also require companies to report salary information so the government can better enforce federal fair-pay laws. Republicans — somewhat quietly — have taken the side of business groups, which have said these reporting requirements in particular would pose a significant amount of red tape for companies and possibly open their pay policies to legal challenge even when they are not based on gender discrimination.That's why this isn't just a war on women. It is part of the war on workers, too. The Republican party has sought to undermine the rights of workers from state houses to the Congress, and voting against gender-based pay equity is but a small part of that attack. This November, we must answer that attack. Nothing short of the American way of life is at stake.