Women work at least as hard as men; pay them accordingly

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We’re a nation that considers ourself among the greatest on the planet. So why do we have such a problem treating ourselves properly?

We pretend to hold women in high esteem, yet when payday rolls around, we shortchange them by double-digit percentages.

“The earnings gap between men and women has shrunk to a record low,” Dennis Cauchon reported in USA Today last week. His glass-is-82.8-percent-full perspective was tempered by good and bad news. The good news is “many women are prospering in the new economy,” he wrote. The bad news is women are doing better “partly because men have been hit hard by the recession.”

So we’re not paying women any better. Their “gain” came only in comparison to men’s wages, which have slipped.

Percentages used to describe the inequity vary, with many news organizations reporting the figure at 77 percent.

President Obama issued a statement July 10, noting that “women make up half of the work force, and two-thirds of American families with children rely on a woman’s wages as a significant portion of their families’ income,” according to another USA Today report.

We as a nation tried to remedy the pay disparity when we enacted the Paycheck Fairness Act in 1963, “but many, including some lawmakers, recognize that, decades later, there are still loopholes in that bill,” reported Martina Valverde for El Paso, Texas’ KFOX TV Sept. 9.

Senate Bill 182 is an attempt to remedy that injustice, but it has lingered since January. In contrast, a House version of the bill was introduced Jan. 6 and adopted Jan. 9. Of the Democrats voting on it, 246 registered “ayes” and two opposed it. One hundred sixty-one Republicans voted against it – 13 of them women – and 10 supported it.

The names of organizations supporting and opposing the Senate bill, 18 on each side, according to MAPLight.org, are telling. Urging its passage are the 21st Century Democrats, 9to5, National Association of Working Women, Alliance for Justice, American Association of Retired Persons, American Association of University Women, American Civil Liberties Union, American Federation of Teachers,  American Library Association, Moms Rising, National Education Association, National Organization for Women, National Women’s Law Center and People For the American Way.

The American Association of University Women, by the way, provides state-by-state breakdowns of earnings ratios that range from 64 percent in Alaska to 89 in Wyoming. Indiana matches the national average of 71 percent.

Standing in the way of economic justice are the American Apparel and Footwear Association, American Bakers Association, American Housing and Lodging Association, Associated Builders and Contractors, Associated General Contractors of America, College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, Food Marketing Institute, Human Resource Policy Association, International Franchise Association, National Association of Convenience Stores, National Association of Manufacturers, National Federation of Independent Business, National Retail Federation, National Roofing Contractors Association, Society for Human Resource Management and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

If women worked only 64 to 89 percent as hard as men, we could see logic in paying them accordingly.

No other excuse passes the smell test.

“The Senate must pass this bill before they adjourn, or we will have to start all over again with a new House and Senate next year,” the ACLU reported Wednesday. “Every call, e-mail or tweet makes a difference in these final weeks. Please take a few moments to contact your senator and ask them to pass paycheck fairness for women and their families before time runs out.”

We join the ACLU and others calling for economic justice for women.

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