Clinton Joins Unions To Demand 'Equal Pay For Women'

By Jeff Johnson | July 7, 2008 | 8:20 PM EDT

Capitol Hill ( - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) joined several of her female colleagues from both the Senate and House, and union representatives Tuesday to call for legislation to end alleged pay-scale discrimination against women.

"At some point, simple justice demands that women receive equal pay for equal work," Clinton said. "I can't think of a more un-American fact than that; that women are, in any way, discriminated against in the 21st century in the workforce."

Clinton is a co-sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R.781), originally introduced in the House by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).

"The wage gap leaves women short-changed and undervalued to the tune of about 76 cents on the dollar," DeLauro asserted. "For African American women, it's only 66 cents on the dollar. For Hispanic women, a paltry 56 cents."

DeLauro says the bill, which has 193 co-sponsors in the House, would amend the Equal Pay Act and National Labor Relations Act to:

- Prohibit employers from penalizing employees for sharing salary information with coworkers;
- Allow for compensatory and punitive damages for wage discrimination;
- Conform procedures for lawsuits to proceed as a class action with those provided by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure;
- Close an "affirmative defense" loophole to ensure that pay differentials for men and women are truly caused by something other than sex;
- Require increased training for the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) employees to identify and respond to wage discrimination claims;
- Direct the EEOC to improve collection of pay data by race, sex, and national origin of employees; and
- Establish a Department of Labor award to recognize and promote the achievements of employers that have made strides to eliminate pay disparities.

Clinton and DeLauro spoke at a rally organized by the National Committee on Pay Equity, a group headed by Linda Chavez-Thompson, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO.

"Today, which is 'Equal Pay Day' in America ... marks the day this year when women finally earn as much as men earned by December 31st of last year," she said. "It takes women more than 15 months to earn as much as a man earns in 12 months."

But a new study by the Employment Policy Foundation (EPF) disputes the numbers cited by supporters of the legislation.

An EPF analysis of the March 2001 Current Population Survey data showed that single women who have never married, live alone and have full-time jobs earn more than their male equivalents by 28 cents per hour.

The group claims that, when all other factors are equal, hourly earnings "across the full spectrum of occupations, education levels and age[s]" for women average $17.26 per hour, 101.6 percent of single men's wages.

EPF calls the achievement "significant progress," noting that in March 1981, single women earned only 93 cents of every dollar of hourly wages earned by men.

Chavez-Thompson dismisses the research as the product of a "right-wing" group.

"It was only looking at a very narrow sample of women," she said. "But working women are not fooled."

EPF claims, however, that the limited sample is necessary to get a real picture of wage equivalency.

"Comparing the earnings of women and men is complicated by the dynamics of marriage and family responsibilities," said Ed Potter, president of the organization. "To assess how women's earnings compare to men's, EPF examined data for both genders in relationship to their marital status and parent roles."

The EPF study "Women Making Significant Financial Gains," examined the earnings of all full-time workers without children, as well.

Women aged 25-39 without children earned 88 percent of men's hourly wages in 1981. But in 2001, the group says women in the same group earned 96 percent of the amount that similar men earned.

The variances in earning, Potter says, can be attributed to differences in work experience, occupational choice and marital status.

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