Let's celebrate Mother's Day with equal pay
For all the homage paid to Mom by so many politicians, they have refused to end her status as a second-class citizen in the national work place.
According to a report by Sen. Bob Casey of Scranton, in his role as chairman of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, the gender pay gap is 18 percent - women earn 82 cents for every dollar earned by men in comparable positions.
Even though the gender pay gap gradually has shrunk since passage of the Equal Pay Act - which was signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963 - the impact of the disparity has grown along with the predominance of women as family breadwinners.
Nationally, working mothers bring in 42.1 percent of family incomes (41.5 percent in Pennsylvania), according to the Joint Economic Committee. Of all working mothers, 38 percent are the family's primary wage earner (36.5 percent in Pennsylvania).
Of 35.7 million American mothers with children younger than 18, more than two-thirds work outside the home and 48 percent work full-time. One in three working moms is the sole earner in her family.
The impact of the 18 percent gender pay gap, obviously, is not just on working moms but on their children. In nearby Lackawanna County alone, the JEC reported, 10,720 kids are wholly dependent on their mothers' incomes. In Luzerne County, it's 16,920 kids. In Allegheny County, 57,049 children rely solely on mom's check, as do 129,623 children in Philadelphia. (The JEC analysis was limited to the most populated counties in the state - Bradford County was not included in the study.)
Whereas the national 18 percent gender pay gap is unconscionable, it's just an average. In some states the gap is far wider: Louisiana, 30.6 percent; Wyoming, 29.6 percent; and Missouri, 26.2 percent, for example.
For Mother's Day, members of Congress should resolve to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to help reinforce the Equal Pay Act. It would address some of the practical obstacles that allow gender-based pay inequities to persist. It would prevent employers from retaliating against employees for sharing their compensation information with co-workers. Workers who prove that an employer has engaged in gender-based pay discrimination would be eligible for punitive and compensatory damages, just as they are in cases based on racial, ethnic or age discrimination.
In 1963, when JFK signed the Equal Pay Act, women earned 59 cents for every dollar earned by men. It has taken 49 years for the gap to narrow by 29 cents. Congress should accelerate the pace toward a zero gap by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act.