Denying Equal Pay is the Latest Republican Revenge Tactic Against Women

gop devalue women

In the legal system when there is a lawsuit against a business for negligence that caused death or disability, it is a standard practice to put monetary value on the life that was lost or forever changed. The concept of putting an arbitrary value on life is beyond comprehension, but it is more prevalent than the average American realizes and is part and parcel of Republican policies, especially when women’s lives are involved. American women have made progress since they earned the right to vote, to serve on juries, and own property, but regardless their hard-won advancements, they are still little more than second-class citizens at the mercy of the latest Republican assault on their rights. This past week the nation barely noticed it was the 50th anniversary of “Equal Pay Day,” the day John F. Kennedy signed the  Equal Pay Act of 1963, and declared the end of the “unconscionable practice of paying female employees less wages than male employees for the same job.” Despite the 50 year-old law, the “unconscionable practice” is still in force and if Republicans have their way it will remain that way in perpetuity.

The idea that women are worth less than men informs that as far as their relative usefulness to society, Republicans hold them in the same regard as breeding livestock or house servants. Women have always been held in contempt by Republicans, but for the past two years their attacks were not reserved to assaulting their reproductive rights. Last June, Republicans in the Senate blocked a Democratic bill calling for gender equity in pay, and three years earlier they opposed, vehemently, the Lily Ledbetter Act with all but 8 Republicans in the House voting against gender equity in pay.

Women still only earn 77-cents on the dollar for doing the same job as a man, and in many areas of the country women are earning between 62 and 67 cents on the dollar for the same job. Not surprising, in congressional districts where women earn much less than the national average (77-cents), Republican representatives voted against both the Lily Ledbetter Act and opposed the Fair Pay Act of 2012. In January on the anniversary of President Obama signing the Lily Ledbetter Act, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the Fair Pay Act which would build on that legislation and help ensure equal pay for equal work by requiring employers to provide equal pay for jobs that are comparable in skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions, as well as give women information to determine when jobs are undervalued. The bill has gone nowhere like Senator Barbara Mikulski’s Fair Pay Act (2013) did that was meant to strengthen the Fair Labor Standards Act protections against pay inequities based on gender.

The Republican opposition to gender equity in pay is not confined to congressional obstruction to equal pay; the assault on unions in Republican-controlled states primarily targets women in the form of attacks on teachers’ unions. Republicans dream of destroying unions in the states, but they exempt professions like law enforcement and correction officers’ unions and pensions when they take a greater share of state funds than teachers, and yet teacher unions and education are the primary targets. Why? Because in the teaching profession, 87% of teachers are women, and while male-dominated unions are taking a bigger share of state’s resources, women are targeted as draining resources Republicans earmark for corporate tax cuts and reduced tax rates for the rich.

Between 2009 when the recession ended and August of 2012, over 300,000 teachers lost their jobs to education cuts and hundreds of thousands more took pay cuts, benefit cuts, pension cuts, and furlough days. That works out to well-over three-quarters of a million women with University, graduate-level or higher, degrees being sent into unemployment lines or to work part-time, minimum-wage jobs at WalMart or McDonalds. In nearly every state in the Union, correctional officers earn a higher mean wage than school teachers with no experience required and a high-school diploma (or equivalent) the only education necessary, and yet like law enforcement, correctional officers’ unions are spared Republicans’ wrath and it is impossible to believe it is anything other than gender-related.

One of the reasons Republicans oppose the Affordable Care Act was it eliminated gender healthcare cost inequity, and why Republicans’ first-line spending cuts always target women’s programs whether it is Planned Parenthood or Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program providing supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding women. As reported here on Friday, Republicans launched 694 attacks on women’s reproductive rights in 3 months, and besides treating them like breeding stock, the economic damage of forcing women to become birth machines is immeasurable because not only are they taken out of the labor market, they are relegated to providing precious resources for unplanned children for at least 18 years.

Republicans have been on a crusade to put women in their biblical-assigned roles as subservient to men with a vengeance since they took control of the House and several states in 2010, and despite their electoral beating at the hands of women in 2012, their assaults are increasing in 2013. Republican attacks on women are purely ideological because despite women as an electoral force, the GOP made it clear their assaults will be unrelenting regardless the consequences in the last, or the next, election, and what they fail to accomplish nationally, state Republicans achieve locally. The attacks on women’s reproductive rights is more about control than abortion and contraception rights, and it informs the declining value Republicans put on over half the population. The anniversary of the Equal Pay Day was a stark reminder that after 50 years, Republicans devalue women and consider them as worthless today as they did in 1963, and the past four years’ opposition to paycheck fairness is only matched by their attempt to control when women give birth revealing that they place the same value on women as they do breeding stock.

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