By Beverly Cooper Neufeld
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
The Supreme Court ruling on Wal-Mart spotlights the tough fight between female wage earners and employers. To balance our family checkbooks, we all need help from local politicians to pass the Paycheck Fairness bill.
(WOMENSENEWS)--For all the attention, expense and 10 years of legal maneuvering that led to the Supreme Court's decision last month against the female workers of Wal-Mart, the basic question is still unanswered: Is Wal-Mart guilty of widespread, long term wage discrimination?
Despite the evidence that this monolithic company flourished at the expense of employees, the lead plaintiff Betty Dukes and other women will have to tough it out, either as individuals or in smaller groups. These tenacious women vow to fight on, not because of a big payout, but because what they really want is for Wal-Mart to change its ways.
Now that the Supreme Court has refused to certify as many as 1.5 million female employees as a class, that's not going to happen without public outcry and the political will to pass stronger wage discrimination laws.
Unequal pay, unequal promotion, and unequal opportunity for jobs that provide a living wage create a "pay your bills" gap for women around the country.
Nationally, on average, a woman misses out on about $10,000 in wages each year. How do you count that? A year's worth of food? Months of rent or 2500 gallons of gas? Childcare or health insurance?
This is not a women's issue, it is a family-checkbook issue.
With more than 6-in-10 women acting as primary or co-breadwinners, everyone is affected when female workers are undervalued, including local economies and tax bases. In New York the wage gap equals $22 billion lost each year, which is a lot of revenue not being spent here.
Ending wage discrimination was the goal of the Equal Pay Act signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 when the retro TV series "Man Men" was a reality and women struggled for a place in the paid work force.
The Equal Pay Act requires employers to pay all employees equally for equal work, regardless of gender. It was a major step at the time. Loopholes and limited sanctions in the law, however, has meant progress in closing the wage gap has been unacceptably slow, about half-a-cent annually over 50 years.
The federal Paycheck Fairness Act--which almost passed in the U.S. Senate last year-- provides a 21st Century update to this 20th Century law.
It would give the Equal Pay Act teeth by increasing penalties for violators and providing the government with new tools such as data collection and programming to promote better wage practices.
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