What War On Women? Repealing Equal Pay Laws

Just in case you happen to be female, or happen to be married to one, or the son or daughter of one, or the father or uncle of one — you might find this Republican assault on women of interest.  It’s not all about sex either.  It’s also about income.  Buried beneath the hoopla of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signing the anti-abortion legislation this past week (Let’s Make Government Small Enough To Insert Into Every Woman’s Vagina?) was news about Walker signing into effect the repeal of the 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act. [AYV]

Corporate proponents of repeal had argued the law would encourage “frivolous lawsuits” from a “protected class” of people (that would be women) — however, in the two years the law was in effect there were NO lawsuits filed.  Zero. Zilch.  None.  So, why was repeal so important? What could justify it?  Well, maybe money is “more important to men?”  Huh? Someone is still thinking it’s 1960.  For reference, my calendar says it’s 2012.

In 1960 only 20% of mothers were in the work force.  As of 2010 70% of all children in the U.S. lived in households in which all the adults worked. [AmPro]   Two incomes are now the norm, and are two income families struggling to maintain middle class earnings doing better than the previous generation in the ’60s? No.

“…while those families certainly make more money than a one-income family did a generation ago, by the time they pay for the basics — an average home, a health insurance policy, a second car to get Mom to work, child care, and taxes — that family actually has less money left over at the end of the month to show for it. We tend to assume with two incomes you’re doubly secure. But if you count on every penny of both of those incomes, which most families today do, then you’re in big trouble if either income goes away. And obviously, if you have two people in the workforce, you have double the chance that someone will get laid off, or double the chance that someone could get too sick to work. When that happens, two-income families really get into trouble, and that’s how a lot of families quickly go bankrupt.”  [MJ]

So, we have working families working harder simply to stay afloat financially.  Money, then, is equally important no matter the source, be it the father’s or mother’s contribution.  As of 2010 the median household income in the U.S. was $50,046 annually.  [Census] We can safely assume that at least 70% of those families depended on at least two sources of income to sustain their status as a “median family.”

The notion that having the “little woman” enter the workforce in order to obtain income for “extras,” is as dated as capri pants and pill box hats.

Equally outdated is the idea that women lose money by leaving the workforce to concentrate on child raising:

“A 2007  study by the American Association of University Women found that college-educated women earn only 80 percent as much as similarly educated men a year after graduation. Part of that is attributable to differences in life choices and family circumstances, but not all. “After accounting for college major, occupation, industry, sector, hours worked, workplace flexibility, experience, educational attainment, enrollment status, GPA, institution selectivity, age, race/ethnicity, region, marital status, and number of children, a 5 percent difference in the earnings of male and female college graduates one year after graduation was still unexplained,” it said. After 10 years in the workforce, there’s an unexplained 12 percent gap.”  [TDB]

Again, the “time off” argument might have had some validity in the age of Pill Box Hats, but it’s not a valid contention today — the calendar on the bulletin board still says 2012.  We could venture to explain that gap — women aren’t paid as much as men for the same work.

While corporations may very much want to repeal anything that might potentially affect their profitability (women’s pay, minimum wages, etc.) the hard reality of the 21st century is that two income families are the norm, and most families are one sick child or one pink slip away from serious financial difficulties.

Repealing an equal pay protection act isn’t just another assault on women, it’s an attack on entire families.  Someone might also want to remind these Republican legislators and governors that Hazel and the Donna Reed Show aren’t on the television schedule anymore.

Extra Credit Reading Assignments: “The Three Faces of Work Family Conflict,” Center for American Progress, January 2010.   “Wisconsin’s Repeal of Equal Pay Rights,” The Daily Beast, April 2012.   “Dual Income Parents,” Women and Work,  March 2010.   “Single Income Families account for 7% of the total,” Population Reference Bureau,  March 2003.   “Scott Walker Repeals Equal Pay Act, Amplify Your Voice, April 2012. “Walker Overturns Law to Prevent Pay Discrimination,” Think Progress, April 2012.

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Filed under 2012 election, conservatism, Economy, employment, equal pay, family issues, income inequality, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

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