The pattern is so familiar you can be forgiven for missing it last week, but once again a common-sense bill to help working people has been killed by a minority filibuster in the U.S. Senate. This time it’s the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have protected women from pay discrimination.
Let’s leave aside for a moment what happened in the Senate last week, and just look at why the bill is much-needed.
The bill would have given women new powers to challenge gender-based pay discrimination and prevented companies from retaliating against employees who shared information on their pay.
The pay gap is a big economic issue for families. Women lose enough from the pay gap each year to feed a family of four—and their lifetime earnings can be hundreds of thousands of dollars lower. In the long run, this leads to economic insecurity for older women.
As Mariya Strauss writes at Alternet, the protections in the Paycheck Fairness Act make it tougher for any bosses to discriminate—and that helps businesses make the right decisions against pay discrimination.
Summarizing the Paycheck Fairness Act, Goss Graves said it “would make employees more aware of when discrimination is occurring, and give them more ways to challenge it when it occurs.”
“For employers,” Goss Graves added, “it would provide the right incentives for them to properly correct pay inequities in the workplace.” Indeed, some in the business community agree that the bill is needed.
But cast all that aside: whether it’s out of ideology, pressure from business donors or just disinclination to allow one of President Obama’s priorities to become law, the Republican caucus in the Senate came together as one to kill the bill and deny it a debate or a vote. Despite its majority support in the Senate, Republicans won’t let a bill pass that would empower working people to hold their bosses accountable for discrimination.
Back in the real world, we’ve asked about this issue during the thousands of conversations we have every week with working-class people at their doors. It’s no contest—people support equal pay for women and men by overwhelming margins, and that holds true among men as well as women.
Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat who sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act, called its defeat last week “a very sad day in the Senate.” A lot of working people—women and men alike—would agree.