Pay Check Fairness Act and the Politics of the Gender Gap

It’s evident that the Democratic Party wants that wide Gender Gap to stay right where it is until the November Elections.  The introduction of the Pay Check Fairness Act may be a ploy to put Republicans and Blue Dawg Dems on the spot but it will be an interesting ploy and one to watch.  The last time the bill came to the floor was in 2010.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will bring to the floor in coming weeks legislation to protect women from retaliation by employers if they inquire about salaries paid to male colleagues

Republicans voted in unison to block the bill, the Paycheck Fairness Act, when it came to the floor in November of 2010.

Democrats say it will be difficult for GOP senators to back out of their opposition, especially because the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has staunchly opposed the legislation.

Mitt Romney will either have to split with Republicans and an important business group or take a position that could further erode his support among women.

“Romney’s going to be on defense on the Paycheck Fairness Act,” said a senior Democratic aide.

“Women are making 70 cents on a dollar of what a man is making. This will resonate with females across the spectrum. If Republicans to a person are coming down against it, it will be at their political peril,” the aide said.

A spokeswoman for Romney’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The bill would prohibit employer discrimination for inquiring about, discussing or disclosing the wages of another employee.

It would expand the definition of wage discrimination by allowing employees to compare the pay of male colleagues not only within the same office but also with colleagues in other local offices. A female employee could allege wage discrimination if she is paid less than a male working the same job for the same employer across town.

Not a single Republican voted to advance the legislation when Reid brought it to the floor during the 2010 lame duck session, after Republicans scored a huge electoral victory but Democrats still controlled the House and Senate.

Forty Republicans and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) voted against the legislation. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) did not vote.

So why exactly do Republicans dislike the Equal Pay Act so much since its only function is to level the playing ground and prevent discrimination?  Well, for one, Republicans deny that women are paid differently from men.

This morning, during a heated discussion with Rachel Maddow on Meet The Press, GOP consultant Alex Castellanos denied that women make 77 cents for a man’s dollar in the workplace and noted, “there are lots of reasons for that.” Maddow expressed shock at the assertion, but concluded that it explained why Republicans and Mitt Romney are so hesitant to embrace the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, a law that helps women hold accountable employers who discriminate in the pay practices based on gender.

“Now we know, at least from both of your perspectives,” Maddow said, pointing to Castellanos and Romney surrogate Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), “women are not fairing worse than men in the economy that women aren’t getting paid less for equal work.” “It’s about policy and whether or not you want to fix some of the structural discrimination that women really do face that Republicans don’t believe is happening,” she added. Castellanos responded to Maddow’s policy argument by remarking on her passion, to which the MSNBC host took offense:

CASTELLANOS: It is about policy and I love how passionate you are. I wish you were as right about what you’re saying as you are passionate about it. I really do.

MADDOW: That’s really condescending. This is a stylistic issue. My passion on this issue is actually me making a factual argument on it.

My guess is that the introduction of this law is geared to force Romney to take a stand on something he’s been trying to avoid.  Romney has been quite coy about his position on the Lily Ledbetter Act which was the first bill signed into law by Obama.  Romney’s position on the law is unclear.  This comes behind the miserable behavior of Republicans on renewal of the Violence Against Women Act.  Every GOP member of the judiciary committee voted against scheduling a vote on the Act.

Romney sidestepped the controversy by announcing his support for reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act without specifically endorsing the Senate Democratic bill. Senate Republicans quickly conceded and allowed the bill to receive a final vote without waging a filibuster.

Clearly, Reid is maneuvering these bills to put Romney and Republicans in the hot seat.  This makes me wonder if we’re even going to get a fair hearing on the issues themselves. Even though Republicans will likely tank the bill, it would be nice to bring the topic into a discussion that is more about the issue and less about the political process. Greg Sargent of WAPO’s Plum Line has some of the behind the scene maneuvers.

The looming vote could revive a recent controversy that erupted around equal pay issues. On a recent Romney campaign conference call, HuffPo’s Sam Stein asked Romney surrogates whether Romney supports the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which mad e it easier for people to challenge pay discrimination. The campaign at first waffled, but then released a statement confirming that Romney “supports pay equity and is not looking to change current law.”

But Romney’s campaign has not said whether he would have signed that law in the first place.

Now Romney’s rhetorical support for pay equity faces another test in the looming Senate vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act.

This Act would put more pressure on employers to prove that differences in wages are not rooted in gender difference, and would make it easier for employees to divulge information about their salaries, which would in turn facilitate deterring or challenging pay discrimination.

Two years ago Senate Republicans opposed the Paycheck Fairness Act, which had strong support from Obama, and it’s likely they will do so again. But Romney is on record supporting “pay equity” in principle, so he’d either have to break with that principle, or break with Senate Republicans, at a time when the battle over the female vote is raging in the presidential race. If Romney supports the measure, it could make passage of it more likely.

“This is an issue that a number of women Democratic Senators are absolutely intent on addressing — they know that with women still being paid 77 cents to each male worker’s dollar, this is an issue of fundamental fairness that women across the country face daily,” a senior aide to a female Senator says. “A lot of women who don’t necessarily see this as a partisan issue will be watching.”

The Romney campaign, in its pitch for female voters, has argued that women don’t care about social issues as much as they do about jobs, and that pocketbook issues will ultimately drive the female vote. But the Paycheck Fairness Act is a gender issue that’s all about the pocketbook and the economy.

Guess we’ll have to stay tuned to see how much we actually get to discuss this issue compared to the political wrangling designed to keep the gender gap working for the benefit of democratic politicians.  Hopefully, the women in congress will add some substance to the discussion so that it becomes more than just one more partisan sideshow.

62 Comments on “Pay Check Fairness Act and the Politics of the Gender Gap”

  1. RalphB says:

    It would be very good if this issue gets seriously discussed all the way around. It would mean a better chance to actually change the status quo and be better politics. The politics of a fake fight won’t work nearly as well, imho.

    • dakinikat says:

      It says that the Democratic women senators are serious but you never know with Reid. He’s all about the process and I’m not sure if he actually cares about the issue.

    • “Hey Slut, vote for us!” That’s pretty much the substance you are going to get from this “national conversation conveniently during an election year…”

      • Seriously says:

        That’s only if we’re lucky. We’re much more likely to hear “We own your vote, slut!” Isn’t it much nicer to have an element of choice? 😉

      • “Hey Slut, vote for us…or die with Heritage Foundation.”
        Hmm, sounds like our current health insurance system already…

      • Seriously says:

        “Listen up, slut, if you don’t get with the program our party might implode, we won’t be able to recruit any more politicians who think you’re subhuman and want to use your rights as political footballs before putting the ‘bi’ in ‘partisan’ and taking them away anyway, and then you’ll be sorry!”

      • Lulz. Women for Big D from 2012 to eternity, whoo-eee.

  2. bostonboomer says:

    I don’t like women’s rights being held hostage for political purposes; but if this ends up showing Romney for what he is and forcing the Republicans to take a stand against women, maybe it’s a good thing.

    • dakinikat says:

      I’m torn too. I just hope the dialogue is about the issues and not about the partisan process of this.

    • There is a cost-effective and liberal way to expose Romney that does not involve using women as political pawns (hence liberal!)… ask him what he thinks on Monday. Then ask him what he thinks on Tuesday.

  3. ecocatwoman says:

    I’ve heard the 77 cents to a dollar figure before. Kat, do you have a link to where this originated? I’m curious because Castellano made it sound as if it isn’t about equal pay for equal work, as if it’s just like comparing the average wage for women against the average wage for men. That seems illogical to me – that this stat would be based on that. I just get so frustrated when the Right states a “fact” but doesn’t have to cite a source. Kind of like “I believe in God, therefore God exists,” I just don’t take things on Faith, as a general rule.

    BTW did anyone else notice how red in the face Castellano got when Rachel wouldn’t let him talk. I thought he might just strangle on his tie. POP!

  4. The premise of this bill in understandable. However, in reality this is extremely unfair to the men who have more experience, more time in the same position and more education.

    I have only one peer (another Manager) in my division. She has NO college education (I have a 4 yr degree), only 7 yrs in the industry (I have 15), and 3 yrs longer in the same role. However she is paid approximately $11,000 less than I am per year (How do I know? our old Manager left his desk unlocked after he was fired and I needed information he had and the files were in plain sight–oops, yeah I peaked).

    The point. With my education, additional time in the industry and time in my role and the fact that I produce numbers MUCH greater than hers, she should NOT be entitled to receive the same pay.

    If this takes form and my peer is given access to my file, my pay, I will file a suit against the company and personally name Reid.

    These Libtarded idiots need to be called out themselves that this is a war against men.

    • dakinikat says:

      It has nothing to do with punishing men. It has to do with making sure that women who have the same experience and education get paid as much as the men that do. You can’t use anecdotal evidence like what you think your position is. I’m sorry you feel downtrodden but one sob story does not make a trend or the basis of policy. If you look at the job statistics that compare wages of people with the same education, the same number of years experience, and the same job, Women are paid substantially less.

      This isn’t any kind of a war on men … it’s a move to level the playing field for every one so their experience, talents, and education are what matter for pay not physical traits.

      I also don’t appreciate the use of “libtard” because you’re a pretty good example of a right winger that can’t seem to use any other argument that how they feel and think things are. Also, it shows you have no sense of compassion towards any one who is legitimately mentally handicapped. “Tard” is a derogatory and mean slur. People who resort to name calling do so because they have no real argument; only hate.

      I’m an economist. I’ve even linked to the studies that show how this works. Try using your brain and reading the studies instead of spewing hatred and canards.

      • bostonboomer says:

        WTF is he complaining about anyway? He makes $11,000 per year more than someone with less education and experience. What’s unfair about that?

        I guess he thinks that every woman who works has less education and experience than any man in the same position. How bizarre.

        • dakinikat says:

          I have no idea. It’s that silly republican notion that people with privilege are downtrodden. They think they’ve earned their privileges and won’t face up to the hard cold facts that they got a free ride with that skin color and extra appendage. It’s not called running the bases when you’re put on second and third base and you never have to head to first base like the rest of us. Romney’s got that same creepy denial. He thinks the government will treat him unfairly because he refuses to see how any one else gets treated unfairly. He seems to have no idea the law wouldn’t apply to his situation anyway. Search me.

      • bostonboomer says:

        Some people have to try to hit the ball without a bat and somehow make it to first base.

        • dakinikat says:

          “war on men” sounds like something that nut limbaugh would come up with … the man that flunked out of his first semester of community college including ball room dancing

      • I also don’t appreciate the use of “libtard” because you’re a pretty good example of a right winger that can’t seem to use any other argument that how they feel and think things are. Also, it shows you have no sense of compassion towards any one who is legitimately mentally handicapped. “Tard” is a derogatory and mean slur. People who resort to name calling do so because they have no real argument; only hate.

        Yup, I take offense to this too…aside from the fact that my brother has Downs and is mentally handicap, it is still a hateful and desperate way to end an argument.

        As far as the war on men….oh please, don’t make me laugh…Dak and BB have already addressed that ridiculous comment.

      • A woman’s job is never done, that’s why men get paid more.

      • RalphB says:

        Chase in Cali. Oh no, your job is quite donel You’ve managed to prove some men are nitwits.

      • Seriously says:

        And honestly, wtf is up with the resentment of other people making a living wage? How does that affect you? Why do you care? It’s not just wingers, people at kos were always going on about how they hated unions because it made them angry thinking that the union cashier at the grocery store possibly made as much money as they did. Sorry to interrupt your unearned sense of superiority and dreams of topping the natural hierarchy. You could always go apply for a cashier job yourself, but I forget, those people are inferior and should be happy to have the pleasure of serving you and validating your resentment and delusions, all for free.

      • Seriously, thanks for throwing in your two cents…..that’s about all it’s worth.

        Well, I’d love to answer a couple of your questions….I’m sure she has some nice things to say about me (as I do about her). If she does stoop to say anything negative I would be very shocked. I have not said one negative thing about my peer.

        As for how she arrived at this position, I’ll throw out a few facts and let you stew in your own words. She was hired for our Regional Vice President (who was transferred to a failing location and rumor was it was for him to fail to be canned–he was within the last 6 months). The other two upper level Managers in my office was later found out to be best friends with her dad AND the third hiring Manager was found out to be her Aunt). So, I’ll let you make up your own mind as to how she was selected for that position.

        As for me. Hmmm. Over the last 6 yrs in this role, there have been 7 others hired to fill my counterparts role. Of the 7, 5 were fired, 1 quit and 1 promoted to another position. I have been the only Manager who has consistently met goals and outperformed the others. Again, I’ll let you make up your mind on my value I hold with my employer.

      • Seriously says:

        LOL I am indeed stewing in my words! I think you and I both know how she got her job. *wink wink* I want you to know I honestly did carefully read each and every word of your ramblings and will carry your victimhood with me always. You are obviously the most amazing employee in the entire world, especially if your job involves computers, as evidenced by your inability to click the button to nest in the correct thread. Don’t forget, when you file your suit to prevent anyone from getting to access to your file, your pay, that if they want to know they should just follow your example and peek into confidential files.

      • Seriously, you are indeed a class act.
        As far as my peeking, technically I had access as I was interim Ops Director. Ethically should I have looked? No. But, being human and curiosity definitely did get the beat of me.

        Thanks for adding a little extra something for me. Night to all.

      • Seriously says:

        Aw, thank you darlin’. I was hoping to win your seal of approval, and now it looks like my dreams have all come true. Just promise not to look too closely into how I got my job, mkay? Because that’s an embarassing story I’d just as soon not let anyone in on. Ever.

      • NW Luna says:

        @ Ralph —– LOL!

        So good to have your (definitely not nitwitted) comments.

    • northwestrain says:

      Cold hard — unemotional statistics show the pattern of wage discrimination based on gender. There will always be anecdotal stories which are used to confuse the overwhelming evidence that women are payed less than men for the same job/work experience and in fact women usually are held to a higher educational standard than men. To earn as much as a male with a high school education, women very often are required to have a college education.

      • Bostonboomer:
        “WTF is he complaining about anyway? He makes $11,000 per year more than someone with less education and experience. What’s unfair about that?

        I guess he thinks that every woman who works has less education and experience than any man in the same position. How bizarre.”

        I am not complaining. My point is that it would be unfair for my counterpart to be able to use this bill to increase her pay to what I make (based on the facts I provided).

        And I know ladies, I’m only one example…..but IMO, I’m the only one who matters in MY scenario.

      • RalphB says:

        Of course, you’re the only one that matters to you. That’s what makes Republicans shit, among a few other selfish traits.

      • Seriously says:

        Well, guess what? Your co-worker is the only one who matters in HER scenario, and I bet she has a lot to say about you. Anecdotally, you obviously got a tremendous amount out of your college education and the fact that she rose to the same job much faster with only a hs diploma only validates what an incomparably valuable employee you must be.

    • bostonboomer says:


      I just hope your job doesn’t involve writing. You don’t seem to have a very good command of English grammar or sentence construction. It’s a little difficult to understand your points because you write so poorly.

    • foxyladi14 says:

      I would sue too. 😯

  5. northwestrain says:

    Equal pay for equal work was the reason I never voted for the current Dem Gov. of WA state. She was the one who killed this law — way back in the 80s. She was with the Attorney General’s office and she fought like a pit bull to kill that law. Then when she runs for Gov. she plays the “feminist” card — she never was and never will be a feminist.

    Women are women’s worst enemies.

    It doesn’t surprise me that 0bowma would be trying to use women (play with our human rights) — and once more he will throw women under the bus.

    Always remember that Mrs. 0 is not nor has she ever been a feminist — she is also the enemy. She is just like Mrs. Romney — back stabbing women.

    At the rate that pay equality is moving — it will be either decades or centuries before pay equality is reached. Way back in the 70s the ration was 75 cents.

    • NW Luna says:

      Well, sometimes people do learn and change. Gregoire’s much better than her Republican insurance company exec opponent would have been. Just one quick example, when funding for childcare was going to be cut she’s fought for single moms to keep getting child care help while looking for work. Romney would expect them to have nannies themselves.

  6. You know, the bottom line to this equal pay law and the violence against women act is to ensure women have easier accessibility to provide a legitimate legal path for them to rightfully fight for what is right.

    Anyone who is against it can not possible be pro-women.

    • I am VERY much pro women (I have 3 daughters and am married) but these politicians don’t give a shit. They are ONLY using this as a point to pit one candidate against another.

      The spiteful women on this site (you know who you are) are just angry and know they lack what their counterparts offer and want this as a way to get free money.

      • dakinikat says:

        I have a PHD in financial economics so what are you saying that I lack in terms of credentials? BB has a PhD in Psychology. I assure you, no one at this blog lacks credentials. You, however, lack logic … your counterpart wouldn’t be able to use that bill because if she doesn’t have the same experience or the same education, it wouldn’t apply. You’re inventing things to be mad about and you’re using derogatory slurs. I’m ignoring one of your comments because it’s a complete non sequitur so I can’t even make sense of it.

      • RalphB says:

        Poor right wing victim. Maybe you could get some wingnut welfare at Heritage or another think tank?

      • That is impressive. I take back what said. It was more to just “chum” the waters–to be honest.

        Let’s be honest here….my scenario may not meet what this bill is set up for, but as bills work, I’m sure eventually cases like mine will play out. Yes, it’s purely hypothetical, but it will likely become reality.

        • dakinikat says:

          It’s very simple math. You have X number of years at work. You have X level of education. You have X amount of related experience. Given it’s all the same, is the pay the same? It’s basic addition. I think you’re seeing wild, conspiratorial tangents where there are none. There is nothing else in there. It’s not an affirmative action program or anything like that.

      • And to clear the air, Ralph, I’m an independent not a Republican.

        • dakinikat says:

          Most all of us are independents here. We try to have fact and logic based discussions of issues. We try to avoid name calling and we try to avoid unsubstantiated memes. If you have some study that shows that an equal pay law is going to be used to promote people with less experience and less education, then by all means, show us the link.

        • dakinikat says:

          I just trashed one of your comments. I don’t like my threads turning into huge flame wars with name calling. Please refrain from that.

      • If this is passed, I look forward to returning to this post in time. If I’m wrong ill admit to it. As far as stats, none to provide. My example was ONE example and I never sold it any differently.

        As far as “name calling”, eh, means nothing to me.

  7. ecocatwoman says:

    I’m confused. Sports is primarily a men’s interest (yes, bb & peggysue I know you love the Red Sox). They have no problem understanding parity in sports. You know, like the lowest ranking team gets the highest pick in the draft, unless they trade it away for something better. Equal pay & affirmative action = parity. It’s that simple to me. Why can’t men, with their so-called larger brains, understand this? Maybe because they don’t want to?

    • NW Luna says:

      Anatomically speaking: brain volume is proportional to body size, just as with other body parts. There is a lot of size overlap between men and women. A taller woman would have a bigger brain than a shorter man. But it’s not the size, it’s how the brain is used that matters.

      Lots of men and women do get it, but look at who profits with the way it is now.

      We had to get Title 9 passed to get anything beyond token funding for women’s sports in schools.

      • Seriously says:

        And almost 40 years later, under a Democratic Administration, we have the US Commission on Civil Rights worrying about “decreased opportunities for men in sports” and advising the we have to move beyond merely taking the underrepresented sex into account. It’s a constant struggle just to avoid going farther back.

      • ecocatwoman says:

        I put bigger brain in quotes because that so-called fact is quoted all the time. I’d rather they compare percentage of body mass or, better yet, percentage wise who uses their brain more fully. But when the researchers are primarily men or Stepford women, the female generally is underrated.

  8. This comment section needs Lysol wipes and Febreeze.

    • NW Luna says:

      Lots of us are the type who attempt to reason with individuals long after it’s shown that reason is not getting through.

      Glad to not have to see the wiped comments!

    • janicen says:

      It’s an election year therefore they are getting paid to drop their turds. Look at it this way, they’re not changing anyone’s minds, they’re wasting their time here so that keeps them away from blogs where they might sway some people, and the little money they make will go back into the economy by way of the pizzas and wings they order!

  9. Earth to “Democrats” : Women’s rights are not bargaining chips or political chess pieces… they’re actual rights.