Murray, Warren Double Down on Democrats’ Efforts to Expand Economic Opportunity for Women and Families

Murray: “I think women today would much rather see Congress focusing on expanding opportunity and helping working families, than on getting in between women and their doctors.”

May 14 2014

Washington, D.C— Today, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) delivered remarks on the Senate floor on expanding economic opportunity for women and families. Murray and Warren discussed barriers women and their families face in today’s economy and highlighted policies that would grow the economy and level the playing field for women. The senators called on Republicans to join Democrats in focusing on policies that will move women and the economy forward and end practices that set them back financially, instead of working to turn back the clock on women’s rights.

“As we think about ways to support growth in the 21st century, it’s absolutely clear that our country’s economic success, and that of middle class families, goes hand in hand with women’s economic success,” said Senator Murray.“ This means we have a lot more work to do. Because despite all the progress that has been made—all the glass ceilings that have been broken—women still face barriers that are holding them, their families, and the economy back.”

“Women are working hard, earning their own way and supporting their families, but they aren’t getting the same pay, the same security or the same respect as men. Census data show that in 99.6% of jobs, women get paid less than men. That’s not an accident – that’s discrimination,” said Senator Warren. “Women aren’t asking for special deals. They just want a fair shot at building lives for themselves and their families, and we need to support policies that allow them to do that.”

Key Excerpts from Senator Murray’s Speech:

“Yesterday I held a hearing on this topic in the Senate Budget Committee. We invited a working mother, AnnMarie Duchon to testify about some of the challenges she has faced. AnnMarie said she loves her job at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, but that since the day she started, she made a lower salary than her male counterpart. Even though they had the same responsibilities. Even though they both took a pay cut to accept their jobs. Even though they graduated from the same university in the same year.”

 

“First and foremost, that means we need to end unfair practices that set women back financially. We took a good step forward with the Affordable Care Act, which prevents insurance companies from charging women more than men for coverage. But we need to do more to make sure women are getting equal pay for equal work. My colleague Chairwoman Mikulski has led the way on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would provide women with more tools to fight pay discrimination. Giving the millions of women earning the minimum wage a raise would also go a long way towards that effort.”

“As we get rid of discriminatory practices, we should also recognize the challenges working parents face, and put in place a set of policies that help them at work and home. A big part of this is investing in expanded access to affordable, high-quality child care. Parents deserve to know their children are safe and thriving while they are working. And there are many steps Congress could take, through our tax code and by building on successful programs like Head Start, to help give working parents that peace of mind.”

“That is why it is so disappointing to see that when it comes to issues affecting women, some of my Republican colleagues are laser-focused on turning back the clock. We saw this just yesterday when the senior Senator from South Carolina attempted to pass an extreme bill that would severely limit women’s reproductive rights. I think women today would much rather see Congress focusing on expanding opportunity and helping working families, than on getting in between women and their doctors.”

Full Text of Senator Murray’s Speech:

“I want to start by thanking my colleague Senator Warren for joining me on the floor today.

“We are here to talk about a question that could not be more critical to family budgets and the economy as a whole.

“And that is—what can we do to break down the barriers women still face in our workforce, and make sure women and their families have the fair shot they deserve?

“This is a question I know Senator Warren cares deeply about. She’s brought an enormous amount of leadership and focus to this debate. And I’m looking forward to hearing her thoughts.

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“And I’d also like to thank my colleague Senator Warren again for all of her work to expand economic opportunity and security for women and their families.

“Yesterday I held a hearing on this topic in the Senate Budget Committee. We invited a working mother, AnnMarie Duchon to testify about some of the challenges she has faced.

“AnnMarie said she loves her job at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, but that since the day she started, she made a lower salary than her male counterpart. Even though they had the same responsibilities. Even though they both took a pay cut to accept their jobs. Even though they graduated from the same university in the same year.

“When AnnMarie found this out, she asked for a raise, but she was told she couldn’t have one. She stayed on and continued to work hard anyway. It wasn’t until AnnMarie’s husband’s job was at risk that she started thinking about how much those lost wages meant.

“She ran the numbers and found out that over the years, she missed out on more than $12,000 in wages compared to her male coworker.

“AnnMarie and her husband are first generation college graduates, and they have a five-year-old daughter who is in full-time day care because both AnnMarie and her husband have to work.

“AnnMarie told us that when she realized her lost income amounted to a year’s worth of child care, or ten months of payments on their mortgage or student loans. AnnMarie said that was heartbreaking.

“Now, AnnMarie was ultimately able to go back and convince her employers to give her equal pay.

“But as we know, unfortunately most women aren’t able to do that—many don’t even know they are earning unfair wages. And M. President, that is a real loss—both for families and for our economy as a whole.

“We heard what that $12,000 could have meant for AnnMarie’s household’s budget. But women’s contributions in the workforce have also made a huge difference to our overall economic strength.

“As working families have felt more and more strained by rising costs for everything from college tuition to health care and an economy in which the gap between those at the top and everyone else seems to be getting wider and wider, women’s economic contributions have helped ease the burden.

“Economist Heather Boushey who also testified at our hearing, found in a recent study that between 1979 and 2012,  the U.S. economy grew by almost 11 percent as a result of women joining the labor force.

“So, as we think about ways to support growth in the 21st century, it’s absolutely clear that our country’s economic success, and that of middle class families, goes hand in hand with women’s economic success.

“This means we have a lot more work to do.

“Because despite all the progress that has been made—all the glass ceilings that have been broken—women still face barriers that are holding them, their families, and the economy back.

“Stories like AnnMarie’s—stories of women receiving lower wages for the same work as men—are still far too common.

“And because women are more likely to be the primary caregiver in a family, the lack of paid leave at most jobs means women experience higher turnover and lost earnings, and are more likely to be passed over for promotions that would help them advance.

“In addition, our outdated tax code works against married women who choose to go back to work as a second earner. Because their earnings are counted on top of their spouse’s, they can actually be taxed at a higher rate.

“This can deter some mothers from choosing to re-enter the workforce, especially when you consider the high costs and lack of access to high quality child care.   These kinds of challenges are especially pronounced for women, and in particular mothers, who are struggling to make ends meet.

“We know that two thirds of minimum wage earners are women. Their jobs are disproportionately unlikely to offer any flexibility when, for example, a child gets sick and needs to be picked up early from school.

And their earnings are quickly swallowed by costs associated with work, like child care and transportation.

It’s also important to note that our outdated policies disproportionately affect women when it comes to their retirement security.

Because women, on average, earn less than men, accumulate less in savings, and receive smaller pensions, nearly three in ten women over 65 depend only on Social Security for income in their later years.

“I think all of my colleagues and I are alarmed that the average Social Security benefit for women over 65 is just $13,100 per year. That is hardly enough to feel financially secure.

“The impact of these barriers is increasingly clear.

“Over the last decade, the share of women in the labor force has actually stalled, even as other countries have continued to see more women choosing to go to work.

“Experts believe a major reason for this is that, unlike many other countries, we simply haven’t updated our policies to reflect our 21st century workforce and help today’s two-earner families succeed.

“At a time when we need to be doing everything we can to grow the economy and strengthen our middle class, this just isn’t acceptable. Women have to have an equal shot at success.

“First and foremost, that means we need to end unfair practices that set women back financially.

“We took a good step forward with the Affordable Care Act, which prevents insurance companies from charging women more than men for coverage. But we need to do more to make sure women are getting equal pay for equal work.

“My colleague Chairwoman Mikulski has led the way on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would provide women with more tools to fight pay discrimination. Giving the millions of women earning the minimum wage a raise would also go a long way towards that effort.

“And we also need to update our tax code so that mothers returning to the workforce don’t face a marriage penalty.

“In addition to expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers, the 21st Century Worker Tax Cut Act I introduced would provide a 20 percent deduction on the second earner’s income for working families with young children, to help them keep more of what they earn.

“As we get rid of discriminatory practices, we should also recognize the challenges working parents face, and put in place a set of policies that help them at work and home.

“A big part of this is investing in expanded access to affordable, high-quality child care.

“Parents deserve to know their children are safe and thriving while they are working.

“And there are many steps Congress could take, through our tax code and by building on successful programs like Head Start, to help give working parents that peace of mind.

“Finally, we need to build on and strengthen Social Security with policies that make it easier for women and their families to build a secure retirement.

“There is of course much more we need to do in addition—but I believe any of these changes would have a real impact.

“AnnMarie told us yesterday that she hopes when her daughter enters the workforce, pay inequity will be just as much of a relic as the days before the iPhone.

“I could not agree more.

“Acting to expand economic opportunity for women is the right thing to do. It is part of our ongoing work to uphold our country’s most fundamental values.

“But, as our country’s recent history shows, it’s also an economic necessity—both for families and the broader economy.

“That is why it is so disappointing to see that when it comes to issues affecting women, some of my Republican colleagues are laser-focused on turning back the clock.

“We saw this just yesterday when the senior Senator from South Carolina attempted to pass an extreme bill that would severely limit women’s reproductive rights. I think women today would much rather see Congress focusing on expanding opportunity and helping working families, than on getting in between women and their doctors.

“So over the next few months, I think you are going to continue to see Democrats continuing to fight for goals like achieving pay equity, providing access to affordable child care, and raising the minimum wage…

“All of which would move women, families, and our economy forward—not backward. And I hope our colleagues on the other side of the aisle will be willing to join us. Thank you and I yield the floor.”

 

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