Congress Marches Backwards

June 10, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, the keystone law around fair pay. Unfortunately, this outdated and loophole-ridden legislation cannot protect and guarantee gender pay equity in private industry.

To shore up the effectiveness of the Equal Pay Act, Congress needs to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 377/S. 84), but progress has been repeatedly stalled in the House of Representatives, who refuse to bring the issue to a vote. The latest effort to force a floor vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act was recently defeated in the House by a 230-198 vote. A large group of our elected representatives are clearly more invested in playing to private enterprise over ensuring the equal rights of American citizens. And so, we must continue to push forward, even as Congress insists on pushing back.

As a more immediate step to addressing pay equity, AAUW is urging President Obama to implement part of the Paycheck Fairness Act through an executive order that would ban federal contractors from firing or retaliating against workers who share salary information or ask about wage practices.

Says AAUW Executive Director, Linda D. Hallman, “Women were an important voting bloc in the 2012 election, and pay inequity was a key rallying point, but our policies are still frozen in time. Equal Pay Day must not be another occasion for politicians to use the same rhetoric with no follow-through. AAUW expects action, and our country expects action.”

Tell the President to act on equal pay. Go to the AAUW website and add your voice.

Student Loan Interest Rates Set to Double

Nearly one in five American households has student loan debt, and in 2011, the average graduating college senior owed $26,600. Moreover, the gender wage gap makes student loan debt an even larger burden for women, who on average, earn 18% less than their male counterparts just one year out of college!

The interest rate on subsidized Stafford student loans is set to double on July 1, unless Congress acts to prevent the scheduled rise from 3.4  to 6.8 percent. Students receiving subsidized Stafford loans are the ones who are in most need of financial assistance to attend college – and are least able to afford paying twice as much in interest.

Contact Congress and urge them to prevent this interest rate increase AND ask your representative in the House to ­oppose the “Smarter Solutions for Students Act” (H.R. 1911). To learn more about pending legislation, and to contact your rep, go to the AAUW website and become a Two-Minute Activist.

Pregnancy discrimination claims on the rise

Thirty-five years ago, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act became a groundbreaking law that made pregnancy discrimination in the workplace illegal. Unfortunately, many private sector employers have found ways to circumvent the law, and pregnant women are still being denied reasonable job accommodations or forced out of their job. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act — reintroduced in the Senate on May 14 — would do much to protect workers and their families from this shameful discrimination. To learn more about this reintroduced legislation, and to share in the conversation, go to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act Community page on the AAUW website