Today is equal pay day, and by the sound of it, you would think it is some sort of historical holiday commemorating the anniversary of a landmark day, that our country guaranteed equal pay for women. But that’s not what it’s about, not even close.
Because in the year 2016, at a time when we have self-driving cars and computers that fit on your wrist, women still make only 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. And we’re still standing here, at the United States Congress, debating whether a woman should get fired for asking what the guy down the hall makes for doing the exact same job.
So why do we recognize April 12th as equal pay day? It took the average woman working from January 1st of last year, until today, to make as much as the average man made in 2015. That means she had to work an extra three and a half months, in order to make what a man made last year. And that means, once again, she starts the year in a hole. Equal pay day isn’t a national holiday of celebration. It is a national day of embarrassment.
We hear a lot about how the economy is improving. And there is good news to point to. Unemployment is under 5%, GDP begins to rise, the stock market is up, but too many families across the country feel like the game is rigged against them. They work hard, they play by the rules, and they still struggle to make ends meet.
Here’s the thing, they are right. The game is rigged against working families and pay discrimination is part of that. For women, it’s been a 1, 2 punch in the gut. For decades, wages have flattened out for American Workers and for women, the wage gap just compounds that problem. If we closed both the productivity wage gap, and the gender wage gap, from 1979 to 2014, women’s median hourly wages would be 70% higher today.
But even though we have solid data, the Republicans in Washington refuse to act. Heck, they’d rather spend their time trying to defund Planned Parenthood Health Clinics, and cut Women’s access to birth control, than do anything at all to give working women a raise.
So yes, the game is rigged when women earn less than men for doing the same work. It’s rigged when women can be fired for asking how much the guy down the hall makes for doing the same job. It’s rigged when women have to choose between healthy pregnancies and getting their paychecks. It’s rigged, when women can get fired just for requesting a regular work schedule to go back to school, or get a second job. It’s rigged, when women earn less their whole lives, so that their social security checks are smaller, and their student loans are bigger.
The game is rigged against women and families and it has to stop. I’m standing with my colleagues today, I’m standing with women and friends of women all around the country to demand equal pay for equal work.
It is 2016 not 1916, and it’s long past time to end gender discrimination in the workplace. This is about economics, but it’s also about our values. It’s about who we are as a people and what kind of country we are trying to build. For both our sons and our daughters.
Today, we recognize equal pay day, and we fight today because we don’t want to have to recognize it year after year in the future.
Speech from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSD8W-kPQC8.