Equitable wages: Lawmakers must ensure paycheck fairness

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President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats want legislation designed to narrow the pay gap, based on discrimination, between the nation’s male and female workers. But the Paycheck Fairness Act was dead on arrival in the Senate, where Republicans blocked debate on the bill.

Equal pay for equal work should be standard in this country. Working women, like their male counterparts, deserve a fair salary and decent benefits.

Employers should be held accountable for wage discrimination, yet Republicans, who blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act in 2010 and 2012, keep dodging the issue.

President Obama has issued an executive order that bans federal contractors from retaliating against workers who reveal their salaries publicly. He also has instructed the Labor Department to make rules that would require federal contractors to submit data about the salaries they pay their employees, including information about gender and race.

The White House reports that women who work full time earn, on average, 77 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. There is no easy way to set pay equity between the sexes fairly. Factors such as education, family obligations and differences among industries can skew the numbers.

But the principle of pay equity is worth working for.

The most recent version of such legislation would make it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who inquire about or disclose their wages or the wages of another worker, as part of a complaint or investigation. It would require employers to provide salary information about their employees.

Lawmakers of both parties must be willing to compromise with President Obama to erase this ugly and sexist piece of history. Equal pay is not just a women’s issue; it’s an American issue.

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