WASHINGTON–Sen. Barbara Mikulski urged her colleagues Tuesday on Equal Pay Day 2015 to make equal pay for equal work not just a dream but a reality.
Mikulski was joined by her fellow female Senate and House Democrats at a press conference to mark what they described as an “unhappy” Equal Pay Day. The day acknowledges the amount of extra time it takes a woman to earn what her male counterparts make in 12 months. This year, the day came 104 days after the New Year.
In Maryland in 2013, women made 85.5 cents on the dollar made by men, which is high compared to the national average of 78.3 cents on the dollar, according to the National Women’s Law Center.
The center also reported that pay disparities are much greater for minorities, with African American women making 64 cents for every dollar paid to their white male counterparts nationally and Latinas making 56 cents for every dollar.
“We want equal pay in our law books and equal pay in our checkbooks, and to finally get rid of the harassment that women face in the marketplace when they even ask about how much pay they make,” Mikulski said.
Mikulski urged Congress to take up the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would require the Department of Labor to work with employers to decrease the difference between what they pay men and women and to collect and share wage information based on gender.
Mikulski reintroduced the act in the Senate on March 25, while at the same time, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., reintroduced it in the House of Representatives. The bill is awaiting action in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said Matt Jorgenson, Mikulski’s press secretary.
“You know, I’ve been at this awhile and I’m really getting frustrated,” said Mikulski, who recently announced she will retire from the Senate when her term expires in 2017.
“I’m really getting volcanic…We are tired of being sidelined, redlined, pink slipped, harassed, and intimidated, and we want to not only dream of equal pay for equal work, we want to make it a reality,” Mikulski said.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., who also spoke at the press conference, praised Mikulski for her work.
“Barbara Mikulski has been fighting this for years and years…and therefore it is time the Paycheck Fairness Act is passed,” Hirono said.
DeLauro added that unequal pay hurts all Americans, and that she hopes the act will be passed while Mikulski is still in office.
“She has no intention of spending her remaining time in the Senate coasting,” DeLauro said. “I can’t think of a more fitting capstone for Senator Mikulski’s career.”
After basking for a few moments in the applause from her colleagues and other advocates, Mikulski urged those in attendance to fight for equal pay.
“We need to get out there and just fight,” Mikulski said. “We need to square our shoulders, put our lipstick on and pass paycheck fairness.”