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Valerie Jarrett, longtime consigliera to Barack Obama since she hired Michelle Obama a couple of decades ago to work for Mayor Daley, op-edizes in the WaPo:
Closing the wage gap: It's a matter of survival for working families

America first put an equal-pay law on the books in 1963, when women earned 59 cents for every dollar earned by a man. While this legislation was landmark at the time, its core provisions require updating if it is to fulfill its promise.

Nearly 50 years later, the wage gap has narrowed by only 18 cents. ...

In this harsh economic environment, the consequences of the pay disparity put women and their families, as well as our economy, at a significant disadvantage. We are still emerging from the deepest recession since the Great Depression. And while we have added private-sector jobs for eight straight months, we remain short of our goal of putting every American who wants a job back to work. Today, too many struggling families are still waiting to feel the benefits of economic progress.

That's why women's wages have perhaps never been more important. Women are the sole or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of American families. For them and their families, equal pay is not only a matter of principle; it's a matter of survival.

It is for this reason that President Obama applauds the work of the House of Representatives and strongly supports passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act in the Senate. It is common-sense legislation that will give women the tools they need to obtain equal pay for equal work. The House passed this legislation 256 to 163 in January 2009. The bill is on the Senate calendar and should come up for a vote this month. ...

It will also eliminate a loophole that some employers use to avoid paying women equal wages. Under the act, while employees will still have to prove that discrimination has taken place, employers will be required to prove in court that any wage differences were based on factors other than sex — such as education, training or experience — and were consistent with business necessity. The act will provide victims of sex-based pay discrimination the same remedies under the law that victims of other forms of discrimination have. ...

The Paycheck Fairness Act will also improve federal agency access to wage-related data, while protecting confidentiality. When it becomes law, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will have access to important information from employers that, with time and analysis, will strengthen our ability to ensure compliance. The Labor Department will also be able to begin education and outreach efforts that will increase both employer and employee knowledge of their respective responsibilities and rights regarding equal pay.

For these reasons and more, the Paycheck Fairness Act merits swift passage. America cannot move forward, prosperous and faithful to its ideals, if the pay gap is allowed to persist for another 50 years. This act is not only good for women, it's good for working families, for business and for the American economy.

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