PI Original Ellyn Fortino Tuesday April 9th, 2013, 5:03pm

Equal Pay Advocates, Lawmakers Rally To Close The Gender Wage Gap (VIDEO)

Equal pay advocates gathered at the Daley Center today and said it’s time to end the gender wage gap, which could be closed in part by passage of the federal Paycheck Fairness Act. Progress Illinois was there for the rally.

Women have been working for free from December 31 until today, speakers at an equal pay rally in Chicago said.

That’s because April 9 marked the day when a typical woman worker’s salary finally caught up with a man’s from 2012.  

“I am not happy that here in the 21st century we still have to have a rally because women are not getting equal pay for equal work,” said Attorney General Lisa Madigan at today's event.

“It has been 50 years since the Equal Pay Act was signed, and half a century later, women in Illinois not only earn less than men, but we also earn slightly less than women nationwide compared to men.”

Nationally, women earn about 77 cents on average for every dollar paid to men. In Illinois, it’s about 76 cents to the dollar.

The wage gap has been stagnate at about 80 percent for the past decade, said Deborah Pascal with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau in Chicago.

And the pay gap is even larger for women of color and women with disabilities, she added.

“The United States of America said in 1963 that there would be equal pay, and here we are today,” U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D, IL-9) said to the more than 200 people at the Richard J. Daley Center.

“At this rate, none of us are going to live long enough to see our daughters achieve pay equity.”

Equal pay advocates said it’s time to end the gender wage gap, which could be closed in part by passage of the federal Paycheck Fairness Act, S84, which would allow employees to share salary information between co-workers without retaliation.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) in the Senate and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D, CT-3) in the House, HR 377, would also close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and bring penalties in line with other civil rights laws.

The legislation has 192 co-sponsors in the House, which is 26 votes shy of a majority, Schakowsky said.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin has signed on to the measure in the Senate, and today's rally participants called on U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk to do the same.

The gender wage gap not only hurts women, but also working families trying to make ends meet, said U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D, IL-8) in a statement today.

"Women in Illinois on average earn nearly $12,000 less than their male counterparts, and I know that my neighbors believe that our daughters deserve better," said Duckworth, who is a co-sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act. "During my service in the Army, I earned equal pay for equal work and this policy has helped to make our military the best in the world."

Ambar Mentor-Truppa, chair of the advocacy council for Women Employed, talked with Progress Illinois about why women in Illinois and across the country deserve equal pay for equal work and how they plan to reach out to Kirk:

The gender wage gap is an economic problem, Schakowsky said. Women in the Chicagoland area lose more than $14 billion a year in wages, she said. That comes out to be an annual average wage loss of $10,612 per woman due soley to wage discrimination.

And the financial problems women face are not limited to pay inequity, Madigan said.

In virtually every financial transaction, women are at a disadvantage or discriminated against, she said.

“We have a tougher time getting mortgages,” Madigan explained. “We often pay more when we get auto loans, and young women take out the majority of disastrous pay day loans that often have exorbitant interest rates.”

She highlighted a recent Woodstock Institute report that found female mortgage applicants in the Chicago six county region were less likely to get loans than their male counterparts.

Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon said gender pay equity needs to experience a surge in support and momentum, much like what is being seen with marriage equality.

"When you look at the future of marriage equality in the United States and marriage equality in Illinois, you see how this movement is gaining momentum because of our daughters and our sons who are saying equality is not too much to ask," she said. "We need to take advantage of that momentum and say [wage] equality is not too much to ask. We deserve equality; we're going to speak up for equality; and we're going to achieve equality."

Equal pay advocates did tout the 2009 passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which reinstates an employees’ ability to have their day in court to challenge pay disparity, as one recent measure that attempts to help close the gap.

Here’s Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle explaining the history of the legislation and more about why Ledbetter is one of her heroes:

U.S. Rep. Bill Foster (D, IL-11) said he's proud to have voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act because equal work deserves equal pay. 

“But there’s still work to be done," Foster said in a statement. "I am proud to be a co-sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act and will continue to support measures to close the gap until women are getting the fair pay they deserve.”

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