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I know it’s Earth Day. John McCain reminded me, the “Today Show” reminded me, heck, Crate & Barrel just sent me an e-ad reminding me that I can celebrate Earth Day by “refresh[ing] your drink with our exclusive 100% recycled hand blown glass.”

I didn’t realize, however, until Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton reminded me, that today is also “Equal Pay Day,” created in 1996 to “symbolize… how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year.”

Both candidates mention the legislation currently in the Senate that would overturn a Supreme Court decision that restricted workers’ ability to sue for pay discrimination to “within 180 days after the original pay-setting decision, no matter how long the unfair pay continues.”

Otherwise, the statements reflect their different campaigning styles perfectly: Obama’s is lofty and all-embracing. He talks about “updating the social contract,” elegantly works in a mild reference to his own policy ideas (mandated sick leave, subsidized after school), and closes with some audacious hope: “It’s about living up to our founding promise of equality for all.”

Hillary’s is heavily detailed, has a solid reminder of her second-wave feminist roots, and ends with an explicit call to vote for her. It also includes the exact percentage by which women’s paychecks in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and North Carolina fail to match their male colleagues: 74.8, 72.6, and 79.7.

This, as Clinton points out, forty years after the Equal Pay Act was passed. It’s enough to make me want to refresh my drink.

Clinton’s and Obama’s full statements on Equal Pay Day after the jump. I’ll post McCain’s just as soon as I get it…

April 22, 2008


Statement from Hillary Clinton on Equal Pay Day

“Equal Pay Day, the day that women’s wages catch up with our male counterparts from the previous year, reminds us that while Americans have made great strides towards equality, we still face important challenges.

“Even forty years after the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, women only receive .77 cents for every dollar men earn, and the gap is significantly more for women of color. In Pennsylvania, women who work full time earn 74.8 percent of what men earn. In Indiana, its 72.6, and in North Carolina women earn 79.7 to each dollar earned by men. On average, families forfeit $4,000 a year because women don’t receive equal pay for equal work. I am a proud sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which will toughen penalties in enforcing the provisions of the Equal Pay Act and help realize the promise of pay equity.

“There are heroines standing up for equal pay for equal work. Lilly Ledbetter, whose years of pay discrimination were upheld by the Supreme Court because she did not file a lawsuit before she had evidence of the discrimination, inspired me and my colleagues to introduce legislation to ensure that cases like hers are decided on the merits not on technicalities.

“As the voters in Pennsylvania go to the polls today, the wage gap is a stark reminder of what is at stake in this election. As President, I will continue to work for pay equity because it’s not a woman’s issue, it is a fairness issue and it is a family issue.”

Obama Statement on Equal Pay Day

Chicago, IL — Senator Obama today released the following statement on Equal Pay Day.

“Equal Pay Day is about the fundamental American principle that if you work hard and do a good job, you should be rewarded for your success, regardless of what you look like, where you come from, or what gender you are. And yet, many women today are still earning less than men for the same work – making it harder for single mothers to climb out of poverty, and for elderly women to retire with security.

“This pay gap is an ugly reflection of the discrimination that still exists in the workplace. And as the son of a single mother and the father of two young daughters, I believe we have a responsibility to close it. That’s why I’ve fought to ensure equal pay for equivalent work in Illinois and in the U.S. Senate, and proposed increasing the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s funding and staffing, and making sure it is led by appointees with a strong commitment to ending discrimination. And that’s why tomorrow, I will vote for the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to overturn an unfair Supreme Court decision and ensure that workers can seek a remedy for any paycheck that reflects pay discrimination, no matter when they received it.

“In the end, while closing the pay gap is essential, it is not sufficient to make sure that women and girls have an equal shot at the American dream. We need to update the social contract to reflect the realities that working women face each day by providing seven paid sick days each year, helping all fifty states adopt paid leave for their workers, doubling federal funding for quality after-school programs, and encouraging flexible work schedules to help parents balance work and family.

“On this Equal Pay Day, let’s remember that closing the pay gap is about more than just passing a law or implementing a policy. It’s about living up to our founding promise of equality for all.”