Fake Fair Pay, Paid Leave Proposals Would Harm – Not Help – America’s Women and Families, Women’s Leader Says

Statement of Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families

“Two bills introduced today by Sen. Deb Fischer (R – Neb.) are being sold as measures that would help America’s women and families by addressing the gender wage gap and our nation’s lack of paid family and medical leave. In reality, the Workplace Advancement Act and the Strong Families Act would do more harm to the country’s women and families than good. The American people will not be fooled into thinking these proposals are anything more than efforts to score political points at a time when real action is urgently needed.

Rather than closing loopholes in existing equal pay protections and giving women tools to help root out pay discrimination, the Workplace Advancement Act would give women a false sense of security when they talk about pay with their co-workers and provide little protection against employer retaliation. It is a carefully calculated measure that would benefit employers significantly more than victims of pay discrimination while doing little to close the wage gap.

Women’s wages are critical to the economic security of their families and our nation, and we urgently need meaningful remedies. Women in the United States who work full time, year-round are paid just 80 cents for every dollar paid to men who work full time, year-round. Black women and Latinas are paid just 63 cents and 54 cents, respectively, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, while white women are paid 75 cents and Asian women 85 cents. For every group, these appalling differences amount to thousands of dollars in lost income each year, and numerous studies show they cannot be explained away by education, occupation and other perceived choices.

Women are key breadwinners and caregivers for their families, which is why addressing our nation’s paid leave crisis is also imperative. The Strong Families Act would do almost nothing to help people struggling without paid leave. By creating tax credits for employers that provide paid leave, the proposal simply rewards employers that offer paid leave while providing no significant or effective incentives for others to change their behavior. Rather than establishing a standard for all workers, the Strong Families Act would exacerbate disparities. No lawmaker who supports this legislation can credibly claim to be helping all working people.

Eighty-six percent of U.S. workers don’t have paid family leave through their employers, more than 60 percent don’t have paid personal medical leave through an employer’s temporary disability program and 36 percent of private-sector workers cannot earn a single paid sick day. For women in particular, this means too often having to choose between their health or the care of a child or loved one and a job.

What America’s women and families truly need are measures like the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which would establish an affordable and comprehensive national paid family and medical leave insurance program; the Healthy Families Act, which would create a national paid sick days standard; and the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would prohibit employers from retaliating against workers for discussing their wages, recognize good businesses, support small businesses, create a negotiation training program and enhance enforcement of the nation’s fair pay laws. Voters are overwhelmingly supportive of these strong, common sense measures.

The Paycheck Fairness Act, the FAMILY Act and the Healthy Families Act are the kind of proposals that would truly move the country forward toward the day women are paid equally and no one has to choose between a job and family to meet health and caregiving needs. All members of Congress who recognize the demand and urgent need for these policies should take a close look at these proposals, reject deceptive alternatives like the Workplace Advancement Act and the Strong Families Act, and prioritize real solutions right away.”

About the National Partnership

The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, reproductive health and rights, access to quality, affordable health care and policies that help all people meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at NationalPartnership.org.

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