Last week, I proudly joined my colleagues in reintroducing two bills that aim to reduce violence against and provide fair pay for women and families across our area and country. Often labeled as “women’s issues,” these critical proposals impact all of us – our families, our economy, and the safety and prosperity of our communities.
January marked the beginning of a new Congress, one that I hope differs from the last, with a serious effort by both parties to pass these bills, the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA), and many others.
The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act
Since it was first signed into law by President Clinton in 1994, VAWA programs have improved the national response to domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. Through the provision of critical services, as well as engaging communities, VAWA reduced the incidence of domestic violence by more than 50 percent since becoming law. Ultimately, it has brought domestic abuse out of the shadows and protected millions of women across the country.
Recognizing the importance of the law, Senate Democrats and Republicans last year joined to pass a bipartisan reauthorization of VAWA. However, Republican leadership in the House refused to bring the bill to the floor, meaning that VAWA failed to pass the last Congress.
On Jan. 22, I joined legislation introduced by Rep. Gwen Moore and Rep. John Conyers, among others, to reauthorize VAWA. In the new Congress, there’s no reason to wait or to waste time: Democrats and Republicans must come together to ensure that victims of domestic violence are kept safe and perpetrators are held accountable.
The Paycheck Fairness Act
In his second inaugural address, President Obama stated that our “journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.” The Paycheck Fairness Act, of which I am also a co-sponsor, is an important part of this journey.
American women, on average, earn 77 cents on the dollar compared with their male counterparts. Census Data shows that over an average woman’s working life this disparity will add up to a difference of $434,000, compared with male counterparts.
The Boston Globe recently highlighted that Massachusetts ranks behind every other New England state when it comes to pay equality. You can see a more complete review by state and congressional district through a report compiled by the National Partnership for Women & Families.
Since 2007, I, along with my Democratic colleagues in Congress, have fought to rectify the Supreme Court’s decision against Lilly Ledbetter and working women who face pay discrimination in the workplace. Four years ago this month, President Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a law that allowed women to sue discriminatory employers. However, the fight for pay equality must continue.
Introduced into Congress last week, the Paycheck Fairness Act aims to close the pay gap by compelling employers to show that pay disparity relates to job performance – not gender. The Act also prevents employers from retaliating against employees who discuss their pay arrangements with co-workers.
Importantly, two thirds of women in this country are breadwinners for their families, meaning that pay inequality not only affects women, but also children and families.
I am proud to co-sponsor both the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act and Paycheck Fairness Act. Both bills are critical not only to ensuring equality for women in the home and workplace, but also in providing fairer outcomes for children and families across the United States.