On National Equal Pay Day, we are reminded of how we impede our own success when we refuse to compensate women equally. Women still make just 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. Over a lifetime, that adds up to more than $430,000 in lost compensation for her, her family, and our economy. For Hispanic and African American women, the gap is shamefully even greater.
Women now constitute nearly half of the nation’s work force. More women are acting as their family’s primary breadwinner, and many families rely on the paycheck of a wife or mother just to make ends meet. Pay equality is not just a women’s issue – it’s a family issue, and an economic issue.
As the party of inclusion, empowerment, and opportunity, these issues are priorities for Democrats. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill signed into law by President Obama, and Democrats in Congress continue to fight for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act. In addition, Democrats support increasing the minimum wage, because no one who works full time should have to live in poverty. We also recognize that real economic equality includes enabling women to decide for themselves when to start a family.
The contrast with Republicans is clear. Republicans stood steadfast against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, oppose increasing the minimum wage, and have repeatedly blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act. They continue to double down on their obsession with repealing the Affordable Care Act, and with it the provision that bars insurance companies from treating being a woman as a pre-existing condition increasing the cost of health care for women and their families. The net effect is that while Republicans are fighting against bigger paychecks for women, they would also subject them to higher health care costs. That is an unsustainable proposition for America’s families.
Equal pay is about more than just women’s rights. It’s about the economic security of our families. It’s about ensuring that our daughters enter a work environment that treats them with fairness and respect. And it’s about growing our economy, because we know that when women succeed, America succeeds. It’s high time Republicans get on board.