By timestaff
November 16, 2010

It has been nearly half a century since Congress passed the Equal Pay Act of 1963. But that pesky pay gap between men and women persists — and now there’s actually something you can do about it.

This Wednesday, the Senate is scheduled to hold a preliminary vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that could put some teeth into the old Equal Pay Act by strengthening and updating many of its provisions.

“Many people think that equal pay for equal work was something that was solved back in the ’60s,” says Deborah Vagins, legislative counsel for the ACLU’s legislative office. “But what we’ve seen is that because of loopholes and weak remedies, it’s been less effective in combating wage discrimination than everyone had hoped.”

This isn’t some shaggy old feminist cause rearing its head. This is a live issue for American families, given that in nearly a third of households today, women are the primary breadwinners. And according to a nationwide survey of registered voters, more than 75% of Republicans, Democrats, men and women all said they supported the measure.

The new bill has already passed the House, and if it gets the 60 votes necessary to avoid a filibuster this week, it could, possibly, pass the Senate and become law — giving women stronger legal recourse when facing discriminatory pay.

Do we really need a new law? Christina Hoff Sommers, a conservative scholar, argued against the bill recently in The New York Times.

And a recent analysis of 2008 Census data showed that young, single, childless women were out-earning men by about 8% in most U.S. cities. But — let’s face it — that’s a pretty small demographic.

A September report from the General Accounting Government Accountability Office is more in line with what the average woman experiences: In 2007, female managers earned about 81 cents for every dollar earned by their male colleagues. Mothers earned 79 cents.

What’s an under-earning gal to do? Let your Senator know that you won’t stand for this, thank you very much. Your daughters will thank you, too.

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