Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) offered an odd view on women’s paycheck fairness and equity laws on Sunday, suggesting that federal legislation on workplace equity is condescending to women who are well-qualified for the workplace.
Blackburn’s comments came during a round table on Meet the Press. The panel was discussing women’s increasing roles as the primary breadwinners in American families, and women’s general rise in the corporate and political arenas. After she asserted that companies — and her own Republican Party — had to do a better job of incorporating females into the workplace, former White House adviser David Axelrod asked Blackburn whether paycheck fairness laws would bolster women’s chances of achieving success. She responded by saying that Washington should stay out of the matter:
AXELROD: How about pay equity laws to ensure that women are treated fairly in the workplace?
BLACKBURN: I think that more important than that is making certain that women are recognized by those companies. You know, I’ve always said that I didn’t want to be given a job because I was a female, I wanted it because I was the most well-qualified person for the job. And making certain that companies are going to move forward in that vein — that is what women want. They don’t want the decisions made in Washington. They want to be able to have the power and the control and the ability to make those decisions for themselves.
But as the panel pointed out immediately before the exchange, companies are already “recognizing” and hiring more and more women. Women are now the primary breadwinners for 40 percent of all American families — a four-fold increase from 50 years ago.
The problem is that many of those women aren’t placed on equal footing with their male counterparts once they’re hired. Contrary to Blackburn’s insinuation, paycheck and workplace equity legislation isn’t about affirmative action — it’s about making sure that employers don’t discriminate against their workers on the basis of gender. Women in full-time, year-round jobs only make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same level of work.
Blackburn has historically opposed legislation that protects women’s rights — usually under the guise that such laws are congressional overreach, affect too many groups, or hurt businesses. She voted against the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which gives women more latitude to sue companies for workplace discrimination, as well as the Paycheck Fairness Act of 2009, which bars employers from arbitrarily paying employees less on the basis of gender and forces them to use legitimate reasons such as education or past experience. In February, Blackburn also voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, citing concerns that the law would protect “different groups” such as Native American women and LGBT Americans from domestic violence alongside straight, white women.