Tampa activists celebrate Equal Pay Day

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Tuesday was National Equal Pay Day, which Democrats used as an occasion to campaign for the Paycheck Fairness Act, while conservatives furiously reacted that wage inequality is a phony issue.

“America deserves equal pay for equal work,” President Obama said as he signed two executive orders in a ceremony at the White House, including a measure that mandates that contractors publish wage data — by gender and race — to ensure compliance with equal-pay laws. The order also prohibits contractors from retaliating against employees who compare salaries.

According to a recent report by the National Partnership for Women & Families, the wage gap in Florida is $6,687 a year between men and women who work full-time.

In Tampa late Tuesday afternoon, approximately a dozen activists showed up with a cake to present to Democratic Senator Bill Nelson at his district office, as a way of showing thanks for his support for the Paycheck Fairness Act, which the Senate is expected to vote on Wednesday.

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"We appreciate the fact," said Chardonnay Singleton, as she presented a chocolate cake with blue frosting that had nearly a quarter of a slice taken out of it, symbolic of the fact that on average women make 77 cents compared to a dollar made by man, a point emphasized by President Obama on Tuesday as well. He called it "an embarrassment."

Republicans have for the most part dismissed the whole idea that there is a pay gap between men and women. Texas Governor Rick Perry on Morning Joe last month called the idea "nonsense," adding, "Why do we need to muddle up our statutes when we already have laws on the book that clearly take care of this?" In 2012 Wisconsin GOP Governor Scott Walker signed into law a bill that repealed his state's equal pay enforcement act, calling it a "bogus issue."

The Fair Paycheck Act would close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the less comprehensive Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 — the first measure Obama signed into law as president. The Ledbetter law made it easier for women to sue employers for discriminatory wage practices, introducing a 180-day window after each paycheck during which women may challenge employers.

"Our belief is it's a matter of simple fairness, and we have supported women's right to make a fair salary and open doors for women in the workplace," said Irene Bembry, a nurse and member of the American Association of University Women who took part in the Tampa rally.

"I think it's important for women to get recognized for the work that they do, since they're carrying so much of the labor force," said USF Engineering student Kate James, which she says is a very male-dominated field. "There's been a lot of progress in the last 20-30 years, but I do see a lot of women-led households of single women that are struggling a lot, whether it's because of providing child care or because they need to take more time off because of their families or they're in professions that aren't compensated as well as male dominated ones."

The Washington Post's Fact Checker has a detailed breakdown of the accuracy of the claim that women make less than 23 cents than a man does on average for equal work. Glenn Kessler gives President Obama two "Pinocchios" for reciting that statistic, writing that "The president must begin to acknowledge that average annual wages does not begin to capture what is actually happening in the work force and society." But he also writes that "from a political perspective, the Census Department’s 77-cent figure is golden."


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