Democrats Vow to ‘Fight’ On For Paycheck Fairness Act After It Fails in Senate

Elizabeth Harrington | June 5, 2012 | 10:21pm EDT
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Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) (AP Photo)

( - Female Senate Democrats said they would continue to fight for the Paycheck Fairness Act on the premise that women earn 77 cents on the dollar compared to men, despite that the legislation failed to pass in the Senate on Tuesday.

A vote to end a filibuster and move the bill forward failed 52-47, following which female supporters from both the House and Senate convened a press conference on Capitol Hill and blamed the vote on the Republican Party.

There are 51 Democrats in the Senate and 47 Republicans, along with two Independents who caucus with the Democrats, giving them a 53-seat majority. The bill needed 60 votes to end a filibuster. No Republicans supported the legislation.

“There they go again,” said Sen. Barabara Mikulski (D-Md.), the lead sponsor of the bill.  “We lost a pretty big vote today.”

“We will be back,” Mikulski vowed, encouraging women to “put their lipstick on” and “suit up, for this is a new American Revolution.”

Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) accused Republicans of wanting to send women back to the 1960s by voting against the bill.

“Their message to working-women across the country today is that it’s okay for them to keep earning 77 cents for every dollar that’s paid to men,” said Murray.  “It’s okay that there’s only been an 18-cent increase since the Equal Pay Act was signed into law five decades ago.”

“And speaking of the 1960s,” Murray continued, “it’s pretty evident that the GOP agenda is focused on rolling back the clock on women to that era.”

The 77 cents on the dollar statistic was referenced throughout the press conference, and often cited as the premise for the bill.  The figure is derived from a Census Bureau report, “Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010,” according to Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s (D-Conn.) office, which sponsored corresponding legislation in the House.

That report found that the female-to-male earnings ratio of full-time, year-round workers was 0.77 in 2010.

President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Full-time is defined as working 35 hours or more per week, for 50 weeks out of the year, but the data apparently do not take into account myriad other factors, including hours and job choice.

“It’s sort of analogous to saying that nurses make less than doctors,” Kay S. Hymowitz, the William E. Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor of City Journal, told “It doesn’t factor in the market value of the occupations involved.  Women tend to go into lower-paying occupations, education, for instance, rather than computing.”

The “Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2010” report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also found a disparity in pay, that female full-time workers earn 81 percent of the median weekly earnings of men.

Hymowitz said the discrepancy in the two reports has more to do with what she refers to as the “hour gap.”  By basing their findings on a broad definition of full-time work and by not taking into account the amount of hours actually worked, conclusions arrived by the Census Bureau and BLS, she said, can be misleading.

“What does full-time mean in Bureau of Labor Statistics terms?” Hymowitz said.  “It means 35 hours or more, and that or more captures the 40-hour a week manager, the 50-hour a week corporate lawyer, the 60-hour a week whatever -- and those people are more likely to be men.”

She added that another variable often left out is that women tend to take more time off for children.

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“You’ve got all those factors moving in, and when researchers really factor in all those issues what they find is similar between a 5 to 7 cent gap,” she said, or 93 to 95 cents on the dollar.

The BLS report also noted, “Among full-time workers men were more likely than women to have a longer work week.”

“In 2010,” the report states, “25 percent of men in full-time jobs worked 41 or more hours per week, while 14 percent of females in full-time jobs worked the same number of hours.”

The BLS found that 13 percent of women worked 35 to 39 hours per week, as opposed to only 5 percent of men, and when comparing both male and females who work 40 hours a week the pay disparity was smaller, with women earning 87 percent of what men earned.

Hymowitz said it is “simply wrong” to say women earn less than men while doing the exact same job because it is impossible to tabulate.

“It’s simply inaccurate and there is nobody that knows the research who would possibly say that,” she said.  “We don’t know.  We don’t know when you hold all things equal.”

The Paycheck Fairness Act was supported by President Barack Obama and would have required employers to demonstrate that any wage gaps between men and women are the result of factors other than gender; prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information with their co-workers; and require the Department of Labor to train employers to eliminate pay disparities and create a competitive federal grant program to provide negotiation skills training programs for women.

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