It’s been 10 years since President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act overturning a Supreme Court decision that limited the amount of time in which employees could file a lawsuit related to pay discrimination. It’s been 20 since legislation to close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act, increase transparency about wages in workplaces across the country and expand workers’ rights pertaining to to pay discrimination was first introduced in Congress.
Only one month after a record number of women were sworn in to serve in the 116th Congress, feminist lawmakers in the House re-introduced the PFA.
— Rosa DeLauro (@rosadelauro) January 30, 2019
Feminist lawmakers—including newcomers like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and longtime feminist champions Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Rosa DeLauro—announced their re-introduction of the legislation at a press conference Wednesday.
“We implicitly recognize as women that the pay gap and the wage gap is an injustice that persists through secrecy, and it’s an injustice that persists to the present day,” Ocasio-Cortez declared from the House podium. “It is time that we pay people what they are worth, and not how little they are desperate enough to accept.”
The bill will likely pass in the Democratic-led House of Representatives, but it faces considerable opposition in the Senate, where lawmakers from the Republican majority have called it unnecessary and argued that any additional regulations around pay discrimination would discourage companies from hiring women.
Opponents of expanded efforts to close the wage gap often argue that the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act rendered pay discrimination and gender discrimination illegal, making new legislation moot. Data shows, however, that women in the U.S. still face a substantial gender wage gap: Today, on average, a woman earns 79 cents for every dollar a man earns, and women’s median annual earnings are $10,800 less than men’s, according to a report released by the Senate Joint Economic Committee Democratic Staff in 2017. The gaps only increase when broken down by race, with black and Latina women earning significantly less than their white counterparts.
Pelosi remains determined to finally push the PFA over the finish line, however, and hopes to have the bill on the president’s desk and signed into law by Equal Pay Day on April 2, which marks how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.
Pelosi’s reason for persisting? A knowledge that, as she declared Wednesday: “When women succeed, America succeeds.”