PA NOW Testifies at Pay Equity Hearing

believesinequalpayPennsylvania NOW President Caryn Hunt will testify today, 2PM at Philadelphia’s City Hall, in a hearing held by the Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee on House Bill 1250, which would increase the penalties to businesses who discriminate against their workers on the basis of gender and break the Pay Equity law (enacted in 1959).

Here is Pennsylvania NOW’s statement:

Thanks for the opportunity to speak today on behalf of House Bill 1250. I’m grateful to Representative Donnatucci for submitting this bill, and grateful that it’s moving forward. Any improvement in the pay equity law is a step in the right direction and Pennsylvania NOW supports it.

However I must say, when the bill was submitted to committee it had some real teeth in the form of stiff penalties for businesses that discriminate against their women workers. But when it came out they were pretty watered down – it gives the impression that legislators on the Labor & Industry committee don’t take equal pay for equal work seriously. A lifetime of wage discrimination adds up to pretty big numbers for women and their families who rely on that income. I can assure you that the women of the Commonwealth and their families take the gender pay gap quite seriously.

Look, you’ve heard the news:

In Pennsylvania, women earn, on average, 76% of what white men earn in the same job. Women of color earn significantly less. The gender gap persists even after accounting for every conceivable factor related to wage earnings.

Business itself is moving at the speed of light, and yet the gender pay gap has not budged much in a decade. Today, in 2014, women still struggle with this legacy of chauvinism and baseless disparity.

It is not a matter of education. Working age women in Pennsylvania are more educated than their male counterparts.

It’s not a matter of experience. Women are paid less for the same work right out of college, according to the AAUW. It’s gender discrimination pure and simple. And the question is, what are you going to do about it?

Clearly Representative Donatucci has offered partial remedy with House Bill 1250. After waiting fifty plus years, what’s one way to speed up the timeline for pay equity? Make it hurt to discriminate against women until it is rarely done. Make it hurt sooner, make it hurt deeper, and give women workers greater access to the courts.

The simple, just, democratic concept of equal pay for equal work should be a bipartisan principle. Half of Republican voters are women too. But “Republicans Block Equal Pay for Equal Work Law” is a fairly common headline, so it is natural that my organization and women of the Commonwealth look to the Democrats to lead on equal pay.

Women make up half the workforce, as you know, and single women, including single moms, their family’s primary breadwinner, who, on average, make just 56 cents per dollar earned by their male counterpart, are an increasingly important voter block. 44 cents short every hour, hour after hour after hour. You can bet this issue is important to them.

It is crystal clear that, left to their own devices, businesses and industries in Pennsylvania will not move to close this gap. Without updated equal pay laws and stiff penalties to enforce them, working women will once again be put on the “pay no mind” list. Fifty plus years is too long for women and the families that rely on them to have to wait for equal pay. When our state legislators take this issue seriously, so will state businesses.

While Pennsylvania NOW would like to see the penalties as stiff as originally devised in House Bill 1250, we recognize that increasing them for the first time in all these years is a positive step forward. But we also ask that you consider ways to strengthen these laws, not weaken them. Increasing penalties for businesses that discriminate on the basis of gender, in combination with bills included in the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health, such as House Bill 1890, introduced by Representatives Erin Molchany and Brian Sims, to close loopholes in the existing law and eliminate pay secrecy, and bills to provide earned sick time, improved parental leave and raise the minimum wage, will go a long way to redressing this injustice, and that’s what the women of Pennsylvania look to you to do.