Transcript of Pelosi, House Democratic Women Press Conference on Equal Pay Day

Apr 8, 2014
Press Release

Contact: Drew Hammill, 202-226-7616

Washington, D.C. – House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and women Members of the House Democratic Caucus held a press conference today to mark Equal Pay Day – a day that symbolizes when, more than three months into the year, women’s wages finally catch up to what men were paid in the previous year.  At the press conference, Leader Pelosi and women Members called on House Republicans to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, emphasizing how this legislation – a key pillar of House Democrats’ When Women Succeed, America Succeeds agenda for women and families – eliminates the wage disparity women continue to face today.  Below are the Leader’s opening and closing remarks, as well as a question and answer session:

Leader Pelosi’s Opening Remarks

“Good afternoon, everyone.  We just had, really, a glorious experience at the White House, where the President signed two executive orders – one executive order and a memorandum with direction to the Secretary of Labor – that we’re very happy about. 

“As my colleagues come to the podium, you will see that I am joined here by some of the great champions for equality in the workforce for women.  We all have come to this day year in and year out, where we acknowledge that, for the first three months of the year and a little more, women have worked for free compared to their male counterparts – same qualifications, same job.  It’s just not fair.

“It’s not fair for what it means to that woman, of course.  But it also has an impact on what she can do for her family, what will happen for her retirement and the rest.  It’s just something that it’s hard to explain to everyone.  It’s a total embarrassment. 

“Well, the President went to the step of taking the action today to sign the executive order to ensure that federal contractors in the federal government set a firm example of fairness in the workplace.  And later today and the rest of the week, the Senate will be taking up the Paycheck Fairness Act in the Senate.  Pretty exciting, because again – Louise Slaughter, Maxine Waters, all of these women have been working, Colleen Hanabusa, have been working for a long time on these issues, Zoe Lofgren.  I’m talking a little bit more about our senior Members – Jan Schakowsky – senior in terms of service in the Congress. Nydia Velázquez, our Ranking Member on Small Business. 

“But here’s the thing, imagine: first three months of the year, women working for free.  That must end.  Under Rosa DeLauro’s leadership, when we had the majority, we passed the Paycheck Fairness Act in the House two times – for it to be blocked by the 60 vote requirement in the Senate and not passing there.  And also I’m so pleased that 100 percent of the House Democrats are co-sponsors of the Paycheck Fairness Act in the House of Representatives.  One hundred percent of the Democrats.  We’re hoping that the Senate will be successful today.  Again, they have that 60 vote requirement.  But we hope that it will happen.  But if we were to pass it in the House, it would smooth the way in the Senate.  I’m hoping that it doesn’t need any further smoothing. 

“So, here we are now.  Here we are.  This is part of our ‘When Women Succeed, America Succeeds’ agenda – an economic agenda for women and their families.  It’s about fair pay.  It’s about raising the minimum wage through pay.  It’s about work-home balance, in terms of paid leave.  It’s about affordable, quality childcare – children learning, parents earning – and that regard for families that we hold so dear.

“It also recognizes, when we say ‘When Women Succeed, America Succeeds,’ that our economy depends on women in the workforce.  We heard from – you probably read the report on Chairwoman Yellen’s remarks when we honored her here in the Capitol, attributing a lot of the economic progress of the 20th century to women in the workforce.  Our GDP would increase, growth would increase drastically if women were given the proper opportunity in our economy.  Other countries know that there, and they’re engaged.  The Prime Minister of Japan said so at Davos.  The President of Colombia told us in my office: ‘We’re going to grow our economy by more women in the workplace.’ 

“I think we’re all here now.

[Laughter]

“In any event, it was a thrill for me to see the President acknowledge Rosa DeLauro’s leadership on ‘When Women Succeed, America Succeeds,’ in terms of passage.  George Miller – we pay tribute to him, a male Member of Congress, taking the lead on Lilly Ledbetter – passing it, and naming it for Lilly Ledbetter.  Rosa has been there on the forefront in all of this, so I’m pleased now to yield to the distinguished Chair of our Steering & Policy Committee, Ms. DeLauro.”

Leader Pelosi’s Closing Remarks

“I thank our colleagues – Congresswoman DeLauro, Congresswoman Lujan Grisham, Congresswoman Meng, Congresswoman Kelly – for bringing a clearer understanding as to how families are shortchanged when women are shortchanged in the workplace.  I just want to point out that Congresswoman Christensen is here, and this is an issue for us in the territories as well.  So thank you for being with us, and Congresswoman Bordallo, as well.” 

 

***

Leader Pelosi.  Any questions you may have – any of our folks who regularly come here?  Yes?

Q:  So this morning,  the Congresswoman just alluded to this, but the Conference Chair and the Majority Leader both said that they supported equal pay.  But they didn’t seem ready to really take any steps that move in your direction.

Leader Pelosi.  Well, when we passed this – as Congresswoman DeLauro said, she’s been introducing this since 1997 – but when we passed it two times when we had the majority, neither of them voted for the Paycheck Fairness Act.  And I know they’re tweeting that they’re for paycheck.  We want a vote, not a tweet.  But we’re encouraged by hearing the tweet.  We’re encouraged by the tweet.  And I hope that it will translate into positive action to bring it to the floor.  We have a 197 cosponsors for the discharge petition on the Paycheck Fairness Act.  It really would make all the difference in the world to families if they would live up to their tweets.  Any other questions?  Rosa, did you want to speak on that?

Congresswoman DeLauro.  All I would just add to that is I’ve actually contacted Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers, because I listened to her very genuinely talk about being for paycheck fairness.  And I sent information with a note hoping that we might be able to have a dialogue and to be able to talk about this and see where we might go.  I have had no response since, and that’s at least several months ago – well, several weeks ago.  Let me put it that way.

Leader Pelosi.  Anyone else want to speak to that?  But, the fact is that they have, in a way, responded publically in the tweet.  And, as I say, when it comes to any of these issues – but especially now today, on Paycheck Fairness Day, where they’re tweeting their support for paycheck fairness – again, we want them to live up to their tweet.  Give us a vote.

Q:  Congresswoman Jenkins said this morning that she thinks Democrats don’t respect her choice to choose more flexibility for her family over more pay.  Any response to that?

Leader Pelosi.  It’s interesting.  There’s nothing that gives you more flexibility than having equal pay.  Anybody who thinks getting less money gives them more flexibility – something is wrong with this picture.  My colleagues – anyone want to speak to this issue?

Congresswoman Waters.  What does she want to do?

Leader Pelosi.  Does she want to take less than her male colleagues and be here less time?  Do you know what it means?

Q:  Earlier in her career she chose, she seemed – she said she chose to take a job that provided her family with flexibility, rather than a higher-paying job.

Leader Pelosi.  Well, that’s a different issue.  That’s a completely different issue. But does she want to make less than her male counterpart with the same qualifications and the same job description?  Yes sir, you had a question?  Did you want to speak to that?

Congresswoman Kelly.  I was just going to say, the point is – the point here is that, if a man had the same flexibility, he’d still be making more.  That’s our point.

Leader Pelosi.  It’s not about flexibility.

Congresswoman DeLauro.  It’s not either/or.

Q:  White House economist Betsy Stevenson was talking to MSNBC, last week I believe it was, and she said that the wage gap isn’t because of, entirely due to discrimination –  it’s not all due to discrimination.  It’s due to different choices that women make in terms of career choices, which seems to be at odds with what you were saying.

Leader Pelosi.  No, it isn’t at odds.  We’re saying one thing: equal pay for equal work.  A woman with the same qualifications, education, experience and job should make the same amount of money as her male counterpart.  It isn’t about if you decide to take a different kind of a job or anything like that.  This is about equal pay for equal work.  And that is apples and apples – it’s not apples and oranges.  And so, I don’t know who, I don’t know what…

Congresswoman Lujan Grisham.  If that’s really the case, then we wouldn’t have issues with transparency.  So if these choices were acceptable choices that made sense for men and women, about flexibility in their workplace, they would be transparent about what you give up in terms of what that salary is.  They’re not transparent in many workplaces, because the intent is to continue to pay women less – which is why the Administration, the President’s decision today using executive authority for federal contractors is so meaningful.  Because now you have to disclose that.  You have to be clear that you’re going to pay men and women equally.  I don’t see that issue.  And that’s, I think, one of the reasons that there’s had to be policies and lawsuits and the Paycheck Fairness Act – to make sure that we are being transparent.  And these are apples to apples.

Congresswoman DeLauro.  Take a look at the United States Congress, or even this nation’s military.  We come from different parts of the country, as do our male counterparts.  We have different education, skills.  We have different philosophies.  We have all kinds of – geographic location – you can apply all of this.  We are paid the same amount of money, whatever we bring to the job.  That is not true for most American women.  It is just not true.  

Witness last Saturday, a week ago Saturday, in the New York Times, in the business section: a group of women who work for a very prominent jewelry chain – a young woman found that the gentleman next to her was making more than she was.  He had less experience.  She had more, but her paycheck was lower.  That’s what we want to end.  That’s what we’re looking to end.

Leader Pelosi.  And it’s really interesting to see the resistance.  And does that say: “My sister, my daughter, my mother is less worthy to receive respect for the work that they do than a man doing the same job?”  To bring up other peripheral issues is – they’re to be addressed differently.  People want flexibility and the rest.  That’s a separate subject.  But to say that women – and you know what it’s about?  Valuing women and respecting women, and not trying to sell women a bill of goods, that because of something or other they’re not worthy of receiving the same money.  Women should not be susceptible to those false claims. 

I have four daughters and one son.  I came from a family of six older brothers and one girl.  You know, we’ve had all the mixes there.  I have seven grandsons and two granddaughters.  The mix is there.  If I thought for one minute, in any of those scenarios, that there was something less worthy about the young women in the mix – now girls with my grandchildren – it would be such an old, old way of thinking. 

But just remember this: this isn’t just about women, and their families, and retirement.  It’s about the economy.  You want the GDP to grow at a greater rate?  Respect women in the workplace.  This is big.  My colleague, I think it was Robin who said: When American families succeed, America succeeds.  This is about what that is. 

So I’m all smiles today, because the President did something historic, and he set an example for the rest of the country.  And I’ll end where we began today, with Lilly Ledbetter, talking about her situation – where she was paid less, didn’t know it until somebody told her, because it would have been against the rules.  They would have been retaliated against for sharing that information.  The Supreme Court ruled that because she was paid so much lower for such a long period of time that that was okay.  It became legal.  And that she did not act upon it at the time of discrimination, but at the time she find about – “too bad.”  The statute of limitations had run out. 

This is outrageous.  This is outrageous.  And she, courageously, has been our leader on this.  And that’s why when George Miller did this bill, he said: “Who, but Lilly Ledbetter?”  She’s the one who made the fight.  She made the fight, but she never had any gain from it.  She never had any recourse.  But she has gone out there and worked very hard, so that other women could benefit from her experience.  And that’s why it was important what the President said, that the transparency that Congresswoman Lujan Grisham mentioned – that that transparency is there, so that people know. 

So this is a big day.  This is a big day.  And hopefully, the Senate will make it a big week when they pass the bill tomorrow.  But the fight will go on.  And I maintain that, if these people are tweeting that they support equal pay, there’s one way to prove that: act upon it.  Act upon your beliefs.  Just give us a vote.  I’m hoping it goes well in the Senate.  But I know it will go well in the Senate if they thought that it would go well in the House.  Nobody can have the excuse of: “I don’t want to do this because it’s going nowhere in the House.”  This can’t be a place where equality goes to die. 

So, I thank my colleagues for all of their leadership on all of this – whether you’re working on issues that relate to our seniors and what this means to retirement; or whether it’s entry level.  So many of the people making the minimum wage are women.  So it’s part of the whole of our economic agenda for women.  And it’s a great day for women in that regard – but not enough women.  We have to do more.  Thank you all very much.

[Applause]

# # #