topmast_hillary.jpg

(Please welcome Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton who joins us today to talk about equal pay issues and the Paycheck Fairness Act.  She will be chatting with us in the comments for the next half hour — jh)

If men in this country were paid just 77 cents for every dollar that women were paid for the same work, what do you think would happen?

Mass protests? Editorial outrage? Immediate Congressional action?

I think all of the above. And more.

But women have been paid less than men for decades, and we are still fighting for this fundamental inequity to be remedied.

Equal Pay Day is the day we recognize that we have a long way to go before women's pay catches up with men. It's a powerful reminder that even though we've made a lot of progress toward equality, there is so much work left to do.

I introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act in Congress to help close the pay gap. It would toughen the penalties for violating the Equal Pay Act, to stop discrimination in the workplace. It makes sure the government enforces equal pay in its contracts, so that we're leading by example. It prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who share information about their salaries. Did you know you can be fired for talking to your fellow employees just to find out if you're being treated fairly?

The Paycheck Fairness Act would require the Department of Labor to keep collecting and publishing information about women workers — information the Bush administration has stopped collecting. One more step they've taken toward making Washington an evidence-free zone!

This bill is an important step forward for women and our families. I couldn't even get a hearing on it in the Republican controlled Congress, but this month the Senate HELP committee had our first hearing on the wage gap and began considering legislative action.

Just as we're working on equal pay in the workplace, we have to keep working for equal respect for women in every aspect of life. Last Friday, I visited Rutgers University to celebrate the anniversary of the Eagleton Institute and the Center for American Women and Politics. I had the chance to meet with C. Vivian Stringer, the coach of the women's basketball team, and talk to her about the grace and dignity shown by her team after they were the subject of public insults. I told Coach Stringer that we received tens of thousands of messages of support for the team that we will be delivering to them.

Those young women inspired our respect and started a conversation I hope will continue. When I spoke to the young people of Rutgers after meeting with the coach, I urged them to follow the team's example, to take what I called the "Rutgers pledge" — to stand up to discriminatory and degrading language and fight for the respect and equality we all deserve.

I hope you'll take a look at a video on my website with some of the highlights of the speech I gave at Rutgers, where I talk about the inspiring example set by the basketball team and what I believe it means for all of us.