This week, we observed Equal Pay Day to remind people that men and women still receive unequal pay for the same work.  This is not a Democratic or Republican issue, but an American issue and an issue about fairness.  Progress has certainly been made, but much more must be done to ensure that the wage gap becomes history.

It has been thirty-four years since President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law in 1963, and yet women still earn significantly less than men for doing the same work.  This is wrong.  Unequal pay not only hurts women, it also hurts husbands, children and families by lowering family incomes.

In 1963, women who worked full-time, year-round made 59 cents on average for every dollar earned by men.  In 2006, women only earned 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.  While I am encouraged by the progress, it remains excruciatingly slow – with the wage gap narrowing by less than half a cent per year. 

I am proud to be a co-sponsor of H.R. 1338, the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would help permanently close these unequal and unfair realities.  It is my hope that the new Democratic-led Congress will enact this bill this year, ensuring the Equal Pay Act of 1963 contains sufficient provisions to close the income gap.

This bill would ensure that women are paid equal wages for equal work.  It would give the Department of Labor the opportunity to enhance outreach and training programs to work with employers to eliminate disparities.  The Paycheck Fairness Act would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information with their coworkers, allow women to sue for punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages now available under the Equal Pay Act, and create a new grant program to help strengthen the negotiation skills of girls and women.

It is our duty as Americans to end this unfair practice so that all families are rewarded for their work and have access to a bright future.