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(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) spoke on the Senate floor today to voice her support for the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would help women fight for equal pay in the workplace. There will be a vote in the Senate today to allow debate on this legislation to begin.

Shaheen’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below.

Mr. President, I rise today to join my colleagues in discussing a matter of fundamental importance for our country.  Workers should have equal access to every opportunity that will help them put food on the table, send their children to school and save for retirement.  However, in 2012, millions of American women lose nearly a quarter of their potential earnings to pay discrimination. 

Almost 50 years after the landmark Equal Pay Act banned wage discrimination based on gender, women in our country continue to be paid just over three-quarters of what their male counterparts receive for performing the exact same work.  Every day that this wage gap exists is a further injustice to current workers, like my daughters, and future members of the workforce, like my granddaughters. 

Pay discrimination doesn’t just hurt employees; it endangers the families that depend on these women.  One in three working moms is her family’s only source of income.  With the money that mother loses to pay discrimination every year, she could be paying housing and utility costs on her home or feeding her family with money to spare. 

As Governor, I signed a law to prohibit gender-based pay discrimination in New Hampshire and require equal pay for equal work.  In the year before that law was signed, women in New Hampshire made 69 percent of their male colleagues’ wages; today they make 78 percent.  When President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law in 1963, women made less than 60 cents for each dollar earned by men; today, they make 77 cents.  While we’ve made some progress on this issue, we clearly still have a lot of work to do. 

I recently heard from Marie in New Boston, New Hampshire about her experience with pay discrimination.  She wrote: “I worked for many years in a male-dominated company where the fresh-out-of-college boys were paid substantially more than I was for the same position.”  She continued to recount that she actually trained these same men to do their jobs.  Mr. President, since the Equal Pay Act was enacted in 1963, the gender gap impacting wages has only narrowed by an average of half a cent per year.  At this rate, it will take another 45 years for the gap to close entirely. 

The Paycheck Fairness Act would make common-sense updates to this law by requiring pay differences to be based on legitimate business reasons.  It would also protect women whose employers try to shirk their responsibilities by prohibiting employees from discussing their salaries.  Finally, this important legislation would create a program to strengthen women and girls’ negotiation skills, so that they can seek the pay they deserve directly.  I urge my colleagues to support the Paycheck Fairness Act.