Tags: 'Equal | Pay | Day' | Still | Stirs | Controversy

'Equal Pay Day' Still Stirs Controversy

Tuesday, 03 April 2001 12:00 AM

Labor Secretary Elaine Chao noted the day by announcing that the Labor Department would focus on work issues for women, including retirement savings, workplace flexibility and wages.

"Here in the Department of Labor, we have one of the country's leading advocates for women, the Women's Bureau," Chao said. "I want the bureau and this department to be a leader on women's concerns like retirement security, workplace flexibility and equal pay.

"Retirement saving has long been a top priority for women, many of whom face the challenges of part-time employment, time away from the workforce and a long life expectancy," Chao said. "I hope that at the National Summit on Retirement Savings that we are hosting this fall, we will have honest discussions and practical solutions for increasing retirement security for American women."

Chao added: "A growing number of women now have two jobs – balancing time at work and managing the demands of family. While the federal government has offered flexible, family-oriented benefits to its employees for over two decades, private employers are prohibited from offering the same benefits."

Concerned Women for America calls "Equal Pay Day" an "annual farce" and encouraged "women not to let feminists make them victims of an imaginary enemy."

"The real problem is feminist groups who try to dictate wages rather than allowing the market to provide a wide variety of options to women. In an age where women have more opportunities than ever before, it is shameful that feminists judge them by the size of their paycheck," said Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America.

"Women who choose to stay home with their children make a huge contribution to society."

However, National Women's Law Center called on American employers to "pay their women workers what they deserve, and we call for the full force of the law to be brought to bear against those who don't."

"Women still earn, on average, only 72 cents for every dollar earned by men. This is the time to put behind us, for good, the idea that the wage gap between the sexes is due to the choices women make rather than any real discrimination. Some of the wage gap is due to occupational segregation, the fact that women and minorities are still disproportionately clustered in lower-paying fields. It's time we strengthened the laws against pay discrimination and made their enforcement a national priority," Judith Appelbaum, vice president of National Women's Law Center, said in a statement.

But Wright contends that "every person has the opportunity to make career choices, and when we compare men and women who have made similar choices, we see equal pay already exists. A majority of women would stay home with their children if they could afford to. We should focus on policies that allow women to make this choice, rather than pushing them into careers they don't want."

The Equal Pay Act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to prohibit employers from discriminating against women in the workforce on the basis of sex by paying wages to women at a rate less than that paid to men for work performed under similar working conditions and requiring "equal skill, effort and responsibility."

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said on Capitol Hill Tuesday that he would reintroduce a "Fair Pay Act" that would require employers to pay workers based on skills, responsibility and effort, "regardless if the job is considered so-called women's work," he said. Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton, D-D.C., plans to introduce companion legislation on the House side.

Raymond Keating, chief economist of the Small Business Survival Committee, believes Harkin and Holmes-Norton are trying to make "political points" by introducing such legislation.

"Presenting legislation on things like this is wrong-headed, because they assume that there is something wrong out there in the marketplace, and the marketplace is simply reflecting economic reality. And think of the regulatory nightmare that would be imposed on businesses of all types and sizes if crazy legislation like this was ever passed. You would have bureaucrats determining what the value of various skills are in the marketplace. I think these folks have put forward this legislation as a way to score political points, and that's the bottom line," Keating said.

The AFL-CIO believes there should be strong enforcement of current equal pay laws.

"We need better laws and stronger enforcement of current law. We also need to demand equal pay for work of equal value from employers. Neither Congress nor employers will give working women equal pay unless they ask for it," said Linda Chavez-Thompson, AFL-CIO executive vice president.

Keating contends that "many studies have been done on why is there a difference in pay between men and women, and the studies show pretty consistently that it comes back to women exiting and entering the marketplace more frequently than men do. Obviously, it has to with family life, having children and that type of thing."


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Labor Secretary Elaine Chao noted the day by announcing that the Labor Department would focus on work issues for women, including retirement savings, workplace flexibility and wages. Here in the Department of Labor, we have one of the country's leading advocates for...
Tuesday, 03 April 2001 12:00 AM
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