One day after Mother’s Day, a New York congresswoman from the Hudson Valley is calling for equal pay for women.
“When women succeed, America succeeds. When women succeed, America succeeds.”
Congresswoman Nita Lowey, the senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, stood in her Rockland County district office flanked by local elected officials and business leaders to highlight the consequences of pay inequity.
“The Equal Pay Act was passed 51 years ago and yet we still face Mad Men-style inequality in the workplace,” says Lowey. “Some people claim that the wage gap is justified because of the different types of jobs women have. Let me make it clear - that’s baloney. It doesn’t make any sense.”
She refers to the television drama Mad Men about a New York ad agency in the 1960s. Lowey is one of 207 co-sponsors of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which amends the portion of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 known as the Equal Pay Act to revise remedies for, enforcement of, and exceptions to prohibitions against sex discrimination in the payment of wages. The Senate version has 55 co-sponsors.
“A day after celebrating Mother’s Day and all of the work women have done to improve our lives, the need for equal wages is absolutely clear,” Lowey says. “In New York, women make only 84 cents for every dollar a man makes. And just in case anyone is listening and says, 84 cents, those 84 cents added up in a year is $8,274 between full-time working women and men.”
Harriet Cornell is a Democratic Rockland County legislator. She started the Rockland Commission on Women’s Issues in 1984 for which pay equity was a priority. Cornell called it sad that the same battle is still being fought, and she offered this comment to Lowey.
“And I think you were very diplomatic by not pointing out that in Congress it has become a political issue and not a fairness issue,” Cornell says. “And I think it is a fairness issue in terms of… because when women are paid less, their families suffer.”
Lowey says in addition to pay equity, she wants to effect the following:
“Provide paid sick leave,” says Lowey. I want to say that again, paid sick leave, and expand access to affordable child care.”
Lowey is the co-sponsor of legislation called the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, or FAMILY Act, which would establish a national paid family and medical leave insurance program.
“In many businesses they don’t even give leave, and we have to be sure they get paid leave because women are the strong supporters and it’s absolutely essential that we get this done. So I’m working very, very hard,” says Lowey. “And I can be clear, the Republicans don’t want to support it. The Democrats are strong supporters. And I’m hoping we can work in a bipartisan way.”
New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand introduced the FAMILY Act in the Senate, while Connecticut Democrat Rosa DeLauro introduced the bill in the House.