US women's soccer team reignites equal pay push

US women's soccer team reignites equal pay push
© Getty Images

Lawmakers including multiple 2020 White House candidates are seizing on the U.S. women's national soccer team's battle for salaries equal to their male counterparts’ to push for pay equity legislation. 

The effort come after the U.S. women's team won the first game of the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup on Tuesday with a crushing 13-0 victory over Thailand and drew the issue into the national spotlight.

ADVERTISEMENT

The women's team is currently engaged in a gender discrimination lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation over the organization paying male players far more than women, even though the men's team has been far less successful.

The men's team did not qualify for their last World Cup tournament, while the women's team won the championship in 2015.

House Democrats passed legislation, titled the Paycheck Fairness Act, in March that would require employers to prove that pay disparities aren't rooted in gender discrimination and ban asking prospective employees about salary history. Businesses with 100 or more workers would also have to report annual compensation data. 

But the bill, as with many other top House Democratic agenda items, is currently stalled in the Senate. Democrats are trying to use the pileup of legislation against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Senate to vote Thursday to block Trump's Saudi arms deal MORE (R-Ky.), who has cast himself as the "Grim Reaper" ready to thwart all liberal proposals from surviving the upper chamber.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSenate confirms Trump judicial nominee criticized for being hostile to LGBT community Senate confirms Trump judicial nominee criticized for being hostile to LGBT community Democrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills MORE (D-N.Y.) took to the Senate floor hours ahead of Tuesday's World Cup game to press McConnell to take up the House legislation.

ADVERTISEMENT

"This is an issue of basic fairness. Performances aside — and the women have been excellent and often dominant over the past two decades — we shouldn’t reward women less for doing the same work as men," Schumer said. "And right now, the Senate could take a meaningful step to support the women’s international team by passing legislation that aims to end gender-based wage discrimination."

Multiple Democratic presidential candidates jumped on the issue as well, including Sens. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandOvernight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record Overnight Defense: House passes T spending package with defense funds | Senate set to vote on blocking Saudi arms sales | UN nominee defends climate change record 'We fight on': 2020 Democrats mark Juneteenth MORE (N.Y.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisDemocrats asked to create ideal candidate to beat Trump pick white man: poll Democrats asked to create ideal candidate to beat Trump pick white man: poll Biden defends remarks about segregationist senators: 'Apologize for what?' MORE (Calif.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSanders denies tweet about corporate Democrats was dig at Warren Sanders denies tweet about corporate Democrats was dig at Warren Warren: 'On Juneteenth and every day: Black lives matter' MORE (Mass.).

Harris last month unveiled a plan to close the gender pay gap that would require companies with 100 or more employees to show every two years that they are paying men and women the same for equal work. Companies that don't meet the pay certification standards would be fined 1 percent of their profits for every 1 percent wage gap.

"As the U.S. Women’s National Team takes the field against Thailand today, the players are also fighting to be paid equally. Let’s not forget the fight off the field. It’s time we pay our USWNT equally," Harris tweeted.

Harris, Warren and Gillibrand also in late March signed onto a letter spearheaded by Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDemocrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills Democrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills Hillicon Valley: GOP senator wants one agency to run tech probes | Huawei expects to lose B in sales from US ban | Self-driving car bill faces tough road ahead | Elon Musk tweets that he 'deleted' his Twitter account MORE (D-Calif.) urging the United States Soccer Federation president to "ensure that the U.S. Women's National Team is fairly compensated." The letter came shortly after the women's team filed their lawsuit.

White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayTrump invites Sarah Sanders onstage at rally after touting her as potential governor Trump invites Sarah Sanders onstage at rally after touting her as potential governor Mellman: Eroding the rule of law MORE on Wednesday said the president "supports equal pay for equal work," but declined to weigh in on the women's team's lawsuit.  

"We’re very proud of their athletic achievement," Conway said. "But stop trying to politicize really great events like women’s soccer."

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBooker hits Biden's defense of remarks about segregationist senators: 'He's better than this' Booker hits Biden's defense of remarks about segregationist senators: 'He's better than this' Trump says Democrats are handing out subpoenas 'like they're cookies' MORE declined to say if the women's national soccer team should be paid the same as the men.

"We'll talk about that later," Trump said when asked by a reporter. 

The women's lawsuit states that male players are paid far more, even when they lose. It says that women would earn $99,000 if they won 20 friendlies, while men would likely earn $263,320 each and get $100,000 even if they lost all the games, according to ESPN

The United States Soccer Federation doesn't dispute that the male and female players aren't paid equally, but said in a response filed in May that it's because of "different pay structure for performing different work." 

Women in America are estimated to be making about 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. It goes down to 61 cents for black women and 53 cents for Latina women.

Lawmakers have also called out FIFA in the past for compensating Women's World Cup winners less than their male counterparts.

In 2015, after the U.S. women's team won the last World Cup championship, Rep. Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyCracks form in Democratic dam against impeachment Cracks form in Democratic dam against impeachment US women's soccer team reignites equal pay push MORE (D-N.Y.) urged FIFA to pay athletes the same. She noted that the winners would be paid $2 million, compared to the $8 million for those eliminated in the first round of the men's championship. 

"FIFA’s mission is to develop ‘football everywhere and for all.’ It does not discriminate, and neither should you," Maloney wrote at the time.