But, as with much of the recent pro-woman legislation, the measure will spark a partisan fight. On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) began efforts to prevent the vote from being filibustered. “Republicans deny they’re waging a war on women,” Reid said on the floor Thursday morning, “yet they’ve launched a series of attacks on women’s access to health care and contraception this year. Now they have an opportunity to back up their excuses with action.”
Here are five things you need to know about the Paycheck Fairness Act:
1. The Paycheck Fairness Act is not new: Democrats, however, have struggled to get it passed. Last time it came up for a vote, the House passed it with very little bipartisan support. Then Senate Republicans unanimously voted against the bill. Even if they had passed it, though, then-President George W. Bush vowed to veto it.
2. Pay equity is a real problem: Nearly half of all workers in the United States are women. But women tend to hold lower-paying jobs overall, and even when they have the exact same title as men, they make significantly less. Overall, women make 77 cents to a man’s dollar, and in some professions, specifically high-paying careers, that disparity is much higher. The Paycheck Fairness Act would help close the gap more quickly by providing incentives for employers not to discriminate.
3. Lost earnings have serious consequences: The amount of money an average woman loses to the pay gap could feed a family of four. And while the wage gap is slowly shrinking, at its current rate it won’t actually disappear for 45 years. Still, more women are becoming the primary breadwinners or dual-earners in their family, with nearly 40 percent of women out-earning their husbands and a larger number of women with high degrees entering the job market.
4. Existing law doesn’t go far enough: The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act ensured that a woman has the proper window of time to sue for pay discrimination. The Paycheck Fairness Act takes significant steps to close loopholes in the original pay discrimination law, the Equal Pay Act, and to ensure that women can investigate whether they are being discriminated against. It also makes stronger penalties so that employers don’t violate pay discrimination laws. Included in the bill, too, is a grant for a salary-negotiation training program for women, who tend to be reluctant to negotiate.
5. Mitt Romney has not taken a position on the bill: After a very awkward moment over the Lilly Ledbetter Act, a spokesperson for his campaign said that Romney “supports pay equity and is not looking to change current law.” But it’s unclear whether this means Romney would support a new piece of legislation that protects women who don’t have full pay equity.