National Partnership for Women & Families

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From the desk of ... Debra L. Ness

What Do Mothers Need? Fair Pay

It’s no surprise these days that women’s wages are essential to their families and our economy. Women make up nearly half of the workforce and are breadwinners in two-thirds of families. Yet women suffer disproportionately from low wages and blatant pay discrimination that threaten their ability to put food on the table and keep their families out of poverty. That’s why, today, as our #WhatMothersNeed week of action continues, we’re talking about the urgent need for fair pay.

Last month, we took a close look at the issue of fair pay in recognition of Equal Pay Day – the day that marks how far into the year women have had to work to catch up with what men were paid the year before. We found that, on average, a woman in the United States is paid more than $11,600 less than a man every year. And in some states, and especially for African American women and Latinas, that gap is much larger. The loss of that income can have a significant effect on families’ ability to meet their basic needs. Needless to say, it adds up over time.

That is why it is so disappointing that opponents blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act in the Senate last month. The bill would help reduce gender-based pay discrimination by closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and establishing stronger workplace protections for women. It is a common sense proposal that has the support of the majority of voters – across ideological and demographic lines – and President Obama, who recently took historic executive action to promote equal pay among federal contractors.

The same senators also acted shamefully in blocking the Fair Minimum Wage Act last week. It, too, has overwhelming support from the public. The bill would contribute significantly to the ability of women and their families to make ends meet by increasing both the federal minimum and sub-minimum wage rates to keep pace with the rising cost of living. Women make up the majority of workers who are paid the minimum and sub-minimum (or tipped) wage. The tipped minimum wage has been stuck at a measly $2.13 per hour for more than 20 years.

These are critically important proposals that should have been easy to pass. Fair pay, without gender-based pay discrimination, is essential to the fundamental economic security of families and our nation. It should be a top priority for Congress, especially at a time when more than 15 million U.S. households are headed by women and 32 percent of them live in poverty. There is simply no excuse.

So help us keep attention focused on what mothers and all families need this week by calling on Congress to prioritize fair pay by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Fair Minimum Wage Act. They are #WhatMothersNeed.

You can support the #WhatMothersNeed week of action by telling your friends, family, followers and members of Congress what you think mothers truly need this Mother’s Day. We’re focusing on a new issue each day, including: quality maternity care, pregnancy discrimination, family friendly workplace policies like paid family and medical leave and paid sick days, fair pay, and access to quality, affordable health care. Comment below and/or check out the daily tweet storms at 3 p.m. ET on Twitter – hashtag #WhatMothersNeed – to join the conversation.


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