The News: For the third time in four years, the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would aim to narrow the wage gap between men and women, failed to pass in the Senate on Wednesday.
As expected, the Democratic bill fell short of receiving the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster by Republicans. The legislation would have required the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to collect pay information from employers. It would have made it illegal for employers to retaliate against workers who inquire about co-workers’ wages or disclose their own pay as part of a complaint or investigation.
The biggest obstacle to enforcing the laws is that many women do not know, or cannot prove, that they are underpaid.
Tuesday marked the symbolic Equal Pay Day, a date proponents used to demonstrate how far into 2014 women must work to earn what men were paid in 2013. On Tuesday President Barack Obama signed a pair of executive orders that put into effect for federal contractors some rules from the failed Senate bill.
The Take: The Fair Paycheck Act by itself wouldn’t have leveled wages. And it would have been dead on arrival in the House—not that certain defeat is always a deterrent. (See House Republicans’ bullheaded vote last week—their 52nd try—to repeal Obamacare.)
The bill got no Republican votes. They say it was unnecessary because gender-based discrimination in wages is already illegal. Rrrright. Because the Equal Pay Act has worked so well for the past 51 years, except for the fact that women today make on average 77 cents to every dollar earned by men.
Yet Republicans want you to know they firmly “support” equal pay for equal work. Let us count the ways:
Exhibit 1: White House press secretary Jay Carney says that women earn less because on average they hold lower-level positions and have less experience but that staffers of both sexes “in equivalent roles here earn equivalent salaries.”
The Republican National Committee criticized the Fair Paycheck Act as a “desperate political ploy” by Democrats and attacked the 77 cents-to-$1 disparity as “misleading.”
This is an election year, so of course it’s political. Democrats are trying to press Republicans on their opposition to economic policies popular with voters. If Democrats are to hold the Senate, they will have to capitalize on their advantage with female voters.
How important are women in midterm elections? In 2006, 55 percent of female Democratic voters turned out, and the party retook control of Congress. In 2010, 48 percent of them voted, and Democrats lost the House.
Regarding the size of the wage gap, PolitiFact corroborates the most commonly stated figures. Another report found that women make about 90 percent of what men earn until age 35, and then their pay declines.
Not surprisingly, women of color lag the farthest behind. Black women alone must work until July to match white men’s wages from 2013. Latino women, nearly a full year behind, have to work until November.
Exhibit 2: Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Kansas, one of the top women in the House Republican leadership, said, “Many women seek jobs that provide more flexibility for their family over more money, which is the choice that I made as a young working mom.”
Just like that, Jenkins threw the career ambitions of millions of American women under the minivan.
I’m not a working mother, but I was raised by one and married to another for nearly eight years. Flexibility be damned. I don’t know a woman who prefers a job paying less than a man if she’s working the same hours, at the same productivity level, as that man.
Exhibit 3: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor offered no real solutions and sought to deflect, calling out the White House for a report that found its female employees are paid roughly 88 cents to men’s dollar.
At first glance, Cantor has a point. Obama should feel embarrassed, especially since his first legislative act as president was signing into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The administration should have been better prepared with a response.
It goes to show the pervasiveness of the problem, even at the institution charged with solving it. Want the shameful truth about your state? Explore this map, compiled by the National Women’s Law Center:
The News: Since reports this week in The Root and other news sources about an effort to ban New York Jets quarterback Michael Vick from practicing at the team’s offseason facility, the campaign has gained enormous momentum.
A petition on the website Change.org had collected nearly 14,000 signatures as of early Thursday morning. That’s an unusually huge increase from the more than 1,500 signatures reported by The Root Wednesday. The petition had some 1,400 signatures Monday, according to the Fox Sports website.
Students at SUNY Cortland, where the Jets conduct their training camps, are petitioning the school’s president to ban Vick from the campus because of his 2007 conviction for his role in a dogfighting ring.
The Take: People protested Vick’s return to the National Football League after his release from prison. They protested his launch of a clothing line. In February they tried to stop him from giving a speech in North Carolina.
I am a dog lover. I grew up with dogs as pets. The dog I currently own, I love as my son. I was sickened by Vick’s crimes, which I believe were the work of a depraved mind.
Seven years have passed, and I’ve seen no evidence to contradict that Michael Vick has rehabilitated himself. No accounts from teammates, coaches or others, publicly or privately, suggest anything other than that he has completed an improbable transformation into a leader among his teammates, a compassionate father and husband, and even a sincere advocate against animal cruelty.
I’d like to see the Vick haters take a stand against athletes and other men who abuse a more frequent target: women.
It’s a safe bet that professional athletes assault more women per year than Vick ever harmed dogs.
From the New York Times’ Juliet Macur, who wrote that the Eagles should “replace Vick with someone devoid of a dark past,” maybe we could get a missive urging the Baltimore Ravens to cut star running back Ray Rice, who was recently indicted after being videotaped dragging his soon-to-be-wife’s unconscious body from an elevator—moments after he, authorities say, knocked her out.
From the SUNY Cortland students, let’s see greater awareness about the alarming findings in a new White House report that 1 in 5 female college students are assaulted, while just 1 in 8 report their assaults.
I wonder if the SUNY Cortland kids have been too busy attacking Vick to notice that their senator, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, this week requested $109 million to improve the investigations of sexual assaults on campuses. If there were ever any crime they could not abide, it should be this.
Corey Dade, an award-winning journalist based in Washington, D.C., writes The Take and is a contributing editor at The Root. He appears on MSNBC and CNN and contributes to NPR. He is a former NPR correspondent and political reporter at the Wall Street Journal. Give him your “take” on Twitter and Facebook.
Corey Dade, an award-winning journalist based in Washington, D.C., is a former national correspondent at NPR and political reporter at the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe and other news organizations. Follow him on Twitter.