The Imaginary ATM

by Laura Reyes  |  April 08, 2014

The Imaginary ATM

Imagine going to the ATM to withdraw 20 dollars. You punch in your numbers, you hear that familiar whizzing sound and out pops…15 dollars and some change?  Say what?

Thanks to the gender pay gap, this happens to many women every pay day.  When they open their paychecks, they see wages that are 23 percent lower than their male counterparts’. That’s 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.

In fact, today – Equal Pay Day – marks how far into the year a woman must work for her wages to catch up to what a man earned in the previous year.  The result is thousands of dollars of lost wages each year that limit a woman’s ability to purchase day-to-day necessities, support children, go to school, or climb out of poverty.

Perhaps most troubling, during the course of a 40-year career, the pay gap contributes to the loss of more than $460,000 in wages, making it nearly impossible for a woman to adequately save for retirement.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, more than half of women age 65 and older are “economically vulnerable,” and two-thirds rely solely on Social Security income. Older women are more than twice as likely as men to be living below the poverty line.  With so many women from the Baby Boom generation retiring or nearing retirement, this problem is only going to get worse.

In a country founded on the belief that hard work should be rewarded, we have an obligation to act now to change this fundamental inequality.

The Paycheck Fairness Act was introduced in Congress in 2009 and 2011 but failed to garner enough support to make it to President Obama’s desk. This law would make it easier for employees to share salary information, harder for employers to retaliate, and it would strengthen the Equal Pay Act, which prohibits wage discrimination based on gender. It is a common-sense solution that levels the playing field and gives millions of women the opportunity to work their way toward financial security.

It’s time for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Laura Reyes is Secretary-Treasurer of AFSCME.

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