WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in support of the Paycheck Fairness Act. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
“‘Equal pay for equal work.’ When we put the principle as bluntly as that, I doubt that anyone in America would disagree. It is a basic ideal of fairness: The value of work lies in a job well done, not in the gender of the worker.
“But within my lifetime, it was a radical notion. For decades, it was perfectly acceptable for women to earn less simply because they were women. In 1963, when the landmark Equal Pay Act was passed, women made barely 60 cents for every dollar earned by men.
“Thanks to the hard work of generations of women’s advocates, we’ve closed that gap—but when women still make 77 cents on the dollar, we have much more to do. According to the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation, that wage gap costs working families some $200 billion every year—$4,000 per family, each year.
“And while all of us pay lip service to ‘equal pay for equal work,’ the fact is that pay discrimination continues in America—often in secret. In fact, it depends on staying hidden. It depends on keeping women in the dark.
“By now, we have all heard about Lilly Ledbetter. Ms. Ledbetter was a supervisor at a tire plant in Alabama, and for years she was paid less than her male coworkers. But she had no way of knowing the truth, and by the time she found out—years after the discrimination began—it was too late.
“Her case is hardly unique. Justice Ginsberg has written that ‘Comparative pay information…is often hidden from the employee’s view.’ In many workplaces, merely asking a coworker about his or her pay is a firing offense. Far from protecting privacy, rules like that can protect an employer’s power to discriminate.
“That’s why this bill, the Paycheck Fairness Act, is so necessary. It amends the Equal Pay Act to bar retaliation against employees who share or inquire about pay information. It strengthens sanctions against discriminatory employers, which have not been adjusted for 17 years. It clarifies acceptable reasons for differences in pay related to factors other than sex. And it authorizes additional training for Equal Employment Opportunity Commission staff to better identify and handle wage disputes.
“I want to recognize my colleague, Congresswoman DeLauro, for working so hard to bring this bill to the Floor. I urge all of my colleagues to support it. Paycheck fairness is about equal dignity and equal respect. I want my granddaughters to grow up in a world where that equality is unquestioned—for them, and for and every woman, in every American workplace.”