When President Barack Obama addressed equal-pay laws for women, while also calling for a rise in minimum wage, during Tuesday's State of the Union address, the chamber rose for a standing ovation. Some Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), did not.
“Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages. That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It’s 2015. It’s time," Mr. Obama said during the speech.
But not everyone agrees. Since 2011, the House of Representatives has twice rejected the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would require employers to show that any wage differences among employees are not gender-related. It would also bar retaliation against employees who discuss their pay and would require federal contractors to report pay and demographic data about their employees to the Labor Department.
Why have Republicans resisted the bill?
One reason given by Republican opponents to a bill legislating equal pay for women is the belief that it would effectively discourage employers from hiring women and push up overall labor and administrative costs, and it would prompt more lawsuits over unsatisfactory wages.
"At a time when the Obama economy is already hurting women so much, this legislation would double down on job loss, all while lining the pockets of trial lawyers," then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky said before the last vote on the bill, reported the Huffington Post. "In other words, it's just another Democratic idea that threatens to hurt the very people that it claims to help."
Republicans say that they agree with equal pay for equal work, and that it’s illegal to discriminate based on gender. But they add that the Paycheck Fairness Act is not the solution because it would cut flexibility in the workplace for working mothers and end merit-based pay.
A number that Democrats consistently mention is that on average, women make 77 cents to every dollar made by men. While this is accurate, White House economist Betsey Stevenson cautioned against misinterpretation in a previous interview with The Monitor.
“Seventy-seven cents captures the annual earnings of full-time, full-year women divided by the annual earnings of full-time, full-year men,” Stevenson said. “There are a lot of things that go into that 77-cents figure, there are a lot of things that contribute and no one’s trying to say that it’s all about discrimination, but I don’t think there’s a better figure.”
Many took to Twitter to share their feelings. From pointing out to hypocrisy to cheering, #EqualPay remains a topic up for discussion.