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On Equal Pay Day, let’s pass paycheck fairness

Gary Peters

Gary Peters

By Gary Peters

As the father of two daughters and one son, I think I speak for most parents when I say I want the same things for all my children, equally. Like myself, moms and dads across Michigan often reach out and tell me, beaming with pride, about their sons and daughters who are in school, working hard and earning good grades.

They want what we all want: for our kids to study hard so they can excel in what they set out to do. Whether it’s college or workforce training, we want them to get good paying jobs and reach their potential. But we want those things for our daughters as much as we do for our sons. We are concerned that our daughters are working just as hard, but are set up to earn less.

In the last 100 years, we have come far in the fight to ensure that women have the same rights as men. And over the past 50 years, more and more women have been attending college, entering the workforce, running companies and earning incomes for their families.

These have all been positive steps forward in expanding opportunities for women in our country, but this week, as we honor Equal Pay Day, there is still one very important challenge we have to face.

Despite the Equal Pay Act, women continue to make only 76 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. A woman in metro Detroit who holds a full-time job is paid an average of $40,543 per year, compared with $54,921 per year for a man — a yearly gap of $14,378.

The idea that in 2014, women still don’t make equal pay for equal work is a glaring example of the inequalities that still exist for women in the workplace.

We need to recommit ourselves to policies that will strengthen our middle class, invest in small business and create jobs to grow our economy. Paycheck fairness isn’t just an issue that affects women. It’s a middle class issue and a family issue.

When women are short changed, the whole economy suffers. The disparity adds up to thousands of dollars of lost wages for the average family, lowering their household income and leaving them with less money for everyday expenses like groceries, rent, education and health care. This discrepancy in pay is even more acute for the 41% of women who are their families’ sole source of income. And lost wages during one’s working years means less money for retirement, an issue that affects seniors hoping to retire with dignity.

The good news is that there is something we can do. The Paycheck Fairness Act, a measure in Congress that will help women earn equal pay, is an important next step.

It allows employees to share salary information, so that when wage disparity exists, women have the necessary information to fight it. The bill requires employers to show that if wage disparities exist, they are a result of job related factors, not gender.

In honor of Equal Pay Day this week, the U.S. Senate is set to bring the Paycheck Fairness Act up for a vote. I urge the House to do the same, so that we can take the next step forward toward eliminating wage discrimination in our communities.

Equal Pay Day is an important reminder of the work we still need to do to make sure that men and women earn, dollar for dollar, equal pay for equal work. Michigan has always been a place where hard work pays off and playing by the rules means a shot at success. Let’s continue to support our middle class and the working folks across our state by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act.

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