A bill that supporters say would've ensured women are paid the same as men for doing the same work was blocked today by the U.S. Senate in a 58-41 vote. All Republican senators — including George Voinovich from Ohio — voted against allowing debate on the bill.
The bill, known as the Paycheck Fairness Act, was approved by the House in January 2009 and was supported by President Obama.
If enacted as law, the bill would've made it easier for women who suspected they were victims of wage discrimination to address the issue and allow employees to disclose salary information with co-workers despite any workplace rules that prohibited disclosure. Also, employers would've been required to show that any wage discrepancies were based on genuine business requirements and related to specific characteristics of the position that weren't based on gender.
Voinovich, a Republican who is retiring, voted against the bill while U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, was in favor.
The bill was designed to supplement the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.
Data from the U.S. Census in 2008 showed women earned 77 cents for each dollar earned by men.
Opponents, including most business groups, said that wage differences were based on other factors such as negotiating skills and women taking jobs that were more family-friendly with benefits rather than wages.
Those arguments are rejected by supporters including the National Association of Working Women and the American Civil Liberties Union.
“The pay gap is evident in almost every occupational category, in every income bracket; it’s a constant despite education, despite experience,” said Linda Meric, the association's executive director. “Although enforcement of the Equal Pay Act and other civil rights laws has helped narrow the gap, it’s critical that the significant disparities in pay that remain be addressed.
“Our U.S. Senate must consider how the pay gap places families of today in jeopardy; at risk, especially in these tough economic times,” she added. “But if that doesn’t do it, maybe they should consider something else. They should think about their own daughters, their granddaughters, great-granddaughters. They should think about how they prize them, how they love them, how they treasure them, how they would fight for them. Are they really worth less?”
Statistics show women comprise about half of the U.S. workforce, and that mothers are the primary- or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of households.