Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why I'm Still Fighting for the Paycheck Fairness Act

It would be an understatement to say that I was excited about the Paycheck Fairness Act, which was up for a cloture vote in the Senate earlier this week.  Part of my job at 9to5 is to help with online social media—twitter and Facebook and such.  Asha, our online organizer, told me to get the word out; I’m not sure if she was expecting me to get the word out quite as enthusiastically as I did.  By the end of the day Tuesday, I was sending a tweet about the PFA every half hour—not because anyone told me to, but because I wanted to.  I blogged about it on the 9to5 website.  I posted Joe Biden’s statement on the PFA as my Facebook status.  Senator Grassley back in Iowa probably thinks I’m stalking him, I left so many messages at his office.

I came to work on Wednesday morning overwhelmingly excited.  I was part of a movement, and it felt great.  To use a phrase we like at 9to5, I owned the PFA.  I’d worked to get it passed, and now I felt like the passage of the PFA was a personal issue.

With a slowly growing sense of uneasiness, I watched the votes roll in.  First Sen. Brown voted nay, then Sen. Snowe, then Sen. Collins.  I sunk a little lower in my seat with each update, but I still held out hope for someone having a last minute change of heart.  Then all the votes were in, and, unbelievably, we’d lost.

This was the first time I’d owned a cause that lost.  I’d certainly cared about outcomes of political fights before, but I’d never felt a loss quite so poignantly and personally.  I have the good fortune to say that all the campaigns I’d been really invested in had been successful, up until this point. The defeat of the PFA brought up a hard question I hadn’t had to face yet: What do you do after you lose?

The answer that I’ve settled on, cliché as it is, is that you keep going, because some things are too important to give up on.  Every week, Jayne and I get phone calls from women whose coworkers honestly believe that women don’t deserve the same respect as men.  Giving up on the fight to show the world that women have earned that respect is too important to be brushed aside by forty-one nay votes.

So I’m looking forward to this next legislative session, in the “bring it on” sense of looking forward to it. Because that’s when we get another chance to convince more people of all genders, citizens and elected officials, that women deserve respect, and they deserve marks of that respect: for example, equal pay.  Everyone deserves to be shown their inherent human worth.

In the meantime, I will be writing a stern memo to my senator, Mr. Grassley. I encourage you to do the same to yours.

By Beth Miller, Lutheran Volunteer

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Demand Your 23 Cents: Pass the Paycheck Fairness Act

The statistic that women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes doesn’t mean much to me anymore.  I’ve heard it so many times that I don’t even think about it.  On the surface, 23 cents hardly seems worth making a fuss over.

But it is worth making a fuss, and a big one at that.  Maybe instead of saying women make 77 cents on the dollar, we should say that women earn almost a quarter less than men in comparable jobs.  Worse yet, women of color make a little over half as much as white men.  Imagining my salary with an extra twenty-five percent on it suddenly makes those 23 cents on the dollar very relevant to my life and livelihood.

When I’ve mentioned the wage gap to acquaintances, some tell me that it exists because women choose lower-paying professions, don’t stay in school for as long, have less experience, or choose to stay home with children instead of working.  But according to a Catalyst study, male MBAs fresh out of business school, earned $4,600 more in their first year on the job than their female, childless counterparts (you can read the news story here).  It’s an inescapable conclusion: employers still pay women less than they deserve.
Since the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, the wage gap has decreased by just a half of a cent each year.  Frankly, that’s not enough.  Women are still cheated out of an average of $10,622 each year.  What could you do with an extra ten thousand dollars next year?

Not only would equal pay improve individual women’s lives, it would benefit the country as a whole.  If women’s pay were equal to men in their same jobs, with their same experience, we could cut the poverty levels in this country in half.  In this economic climate, that’s no small thing.  At the moment, nearly four in ten single mothers live in poverty.  An extra 23 wents could go a long way towards providing for the families that rely on their wages to survive.

Not only do we need fair pay, we deserve it.  We deserve to be treated as equals, and so do our daughters, granddaughters, and all the women who will come after us.  We’ve earned that extra 23 cents.

The Paycheck Fairness Act will come up for a vote in the Senate this week. This bill is a crucial step towards pay equity.  Call your senators today and tell them that you’ve earned your 23 cents, and you want them to help you get it.

Contact your senators through 9to5's Action Alert, or call them at 1-877-667-6650. 

By Beth Miller, 9to5 Lutheran Volunteer