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Fair Labor Standards, Equal Pay, and Where We Are 50+ Years Later

20130611-EPA-FLSA-road-signs-FAIR-COMPENSATION-NOW (291x300)While the possibilities for women in the workforce have come a long way, baby, there is still wage disparity and wage discrimination that persists even today. Memes have been sweeping the likes of Twitter and Facebook urging a resolution on how workers are compensated, especially in light of recent statistics- in 40% of families with children, women are the primary earners. Yet women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. So if we continue to allow this to be the case, what does it say about American ethics, or our economic opportunities?

75 Years of the Fair Labor Standards Act

During the height of the first Great Depression President Roosevelt knew that to rebuild a prosperous nation he had to protect the livelihoods of workers and laborers.

Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) on June 25, 1938. It established a national minimum wage, required overtime pay under certain circumstances, and prohibited most child labor.

NOLO Law for All website

50 Years of the Equal Pay Act

President John F. Kennedy signed into law the Equal Pay Act (EPA) during his term. At this time the 2nd Wave of feminism was building massive momentum across the country. Women of the ’60s made up a much larger portion of the workforce than women did in the ’30s, when the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed. They were a force to be reckoned with as they demanded “equal pay for equal work”.

The EPA, part of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended (FLSA),[…]prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between men and women in the same establishment who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions.

-Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC website

equal pay day
This EPA meme was found on Stand Up For Women’s Facebook page.

Worker Representation and Equitable Wages

But there IS still sex-based wage discrimination in our nation. Presidents FDR and JFK made monumental decisions that continue to shape the lives of American workers. While we’ve made great strides in areas like freedom of association and organized labor and seen improvements in the treatment and compensation of workers, women still aren’t paid equally to men.

Current statistics show the increasing prevalence and rise of women as the primary breadwinners in American households. But women still earn 23% less than men.

Our national economy is fighting to gain ground, but the female primary breadwinners that can lead us out of recession are being subjected to a 23% “earning handicap.” While you don’t hear of a proclaimed “4th Wave” feminist movement these days, the earning disparity facing our nation’s heads of households is currently central to political and ethical debate in the US.

We have some serious work yet to do in rectifying the imbalance between women’s and men’s pay. Right now, Democrats in Congress are pushing for progress and passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act (of 2013). It has never passed in both the House and the Senate. We think our national economy needs to solve this basic and shameful reality. That will move us forward economically as well as establish the USA as a beacon of true equality to inspire economies across the globe.

As an aside, my personal favorite meme can be viewed on Flickr. It’s by Planned Parenthood and utilizes powerful and intelligent women in some of my favorite shows and movies (throughout time…and space!).

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