For years, Republicans have delayed a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation that would strengthen penalties against employers who discriminate against women in pay and give women greater opportunity to find out whether they have been discriminated against. But on Thursday, House Democrats announced they were creating a “petition to discharge,” which, if it gets enough signatures, would force the bill out of committee and to a vote. On Thursday night, Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) voiced her support for the move:
If Congress is serious in its efforts to strengthen the middle class, support our workforce, and secure equal rights for every American, we must allow a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act [...]
Equal pay for equal work’ is not just a slogan; it is the foundation for the health, growth, and prosperity of our families and our economy. When a woman is paid fairly, our whole nation prospers. Let’s work together to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act now.
So far, only Democrats have signed the discharge petition — and it needs a total of 218 signatures, which means 17 Republicans must join in. Republicans blocked another procedural move to give the Act a vote Thursday. During a push by the Senate last year, the bill almost cleared the filibuster hurdle, but fell short.
With growing conversation around equal pay and women’s rights, it’s possible that the bill could gain support. Even Oprah Winfrey, the richest self-made woman in the United States, explained during a recent PBS interview that she was paid less than half of what her male coworker made in her first job:
On average in the United States, women earn 77 cents on a man’s dollar. Those lost wages aren’t just discriminatory; they hurt families and the economy alike. The average lost wages in a woman’s lifetime could feed a family of four for 37 years, and closing the wage gap would amount to huge economic stimulus.