This week, we saw deeply troubling evidence of just how partisan Congress has become. At a time when families and our economy are struggling, a minority of senators blocked a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act - legislation that would help eradicate wage discrimination and unfair pay for women, which punishes the nation's families. These senators tried to justify their actions with the worn-out, empty claim that such legislation would burden businesses. They failed to acknowledge provisions designed to help businesses and the simple fact that employers that do not discriminate would be entirely unaffected by bill. More importantly, they failed to put the needs of families first.
Wage discrimination should not be a partisan issue. Not only does it violate the core American values of fairness and equality, but it also hurts our economy and women and families no matter their race, geographic location, socioeconomic status or political affiliation. By failing to advance the Paycheck Fairness Act, Congress has shown its inability to pass the common sense legislation the whole country needs.
But we will not give up on the fight for fair pay. Not when women in this country, whose wages are increasingly important to their families, are still paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to men. And not when women of color experience even greater disparities.
The wage gap costs America's women and their families months' and years' worth of basic necessities like food, gas and utilities each year. For the nearly 15 million households in the United States that are headed by women, and the nearly 30 percent of them living in poverty, that kind of loss is no small matter - and it is unacceptable.
Sunday is the anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, a landmark law designed to stop wage discrimination against women. When it passed, women were paid just 59 cents for every dollar paid to men. Forty-nine years later, we have gained only 18 cents. It is time to update and strengthen the law, and that is what the Paycheck Fairness Act would do.
Watching the appalling way politics once again trumped women and families this week was deeply disappointing, but too much is at stake to give up on our fight to stop wage discrimination. We will not rest until the country roots out the practices and policies that keep women from being paid fairly. We will pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and the family friendly policies the country needs.
Watch Judith Lichtman take on fair pay opponents on C-SPAN's Washington Journal.