We Want Equality: Pass this Bill to Give the ERA a Chance!

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A version of the Equal Rights Amendment reads: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.”

Unfortunately, the amendment has still not been passed, meaning that women in our country do not have equal rights according to our Constitution.

We are a group of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders in the “Girls in Government, Leadership, and Service" club at Julia Morgan School for Girls in Oakland, CA and we know without it, families across the country are losing out.

In our class we’ve learned all about equality, injustice, and fighting for our rights. Our teachers have taught us that we are strong and powerful and can be whatever we want when we grow up. But how can we really do that if we’re treated differently than our brothers or male peers?

Imagine this. You make $65,000 a year. You have a good job. You have a spouse and a three year old girl. You’re happy with your life. One night you're hanging out with one of your co-workers. You’re talking about work and your co-worker tells you his salary. He makes $80,000 a year. You have the same exact job, and you’ve had the job a year and a half longer. The only difference between you both is that you’re a woman, and your co-worker is a man. “How is that fair?” you ask yourself.

Well, it’s not. And if the ERA was ratified, it would be illegal under the Constitution. If it a woman did find out she was being paid less for the same job, it would be much easier for her to get justice in court.

In order to be officially added to our Constitution, an amendment must first be passed through Congress and then ratified by 3/4ths (or 38) states. In the 1970s, the ERA passed Congress and was sent to the states, and over 10 years it was ratified by 35 of the 38 states it needed. But after that 10 year deadline, the ERA got stuck.

Fortunately, there is a way that the ERA can still be passed! Congress has the power to eliminate that 10 year deadline by passing the 3 State Strategy bill proposed by Congresswoman Jackie Speier and Senator Cardin. That way the ERA would only need to be voted on by 1 more state in order to be added to our Constitution! If the 3 State Strategy bill passes, only one more state would need to ratify it!

This is not a new idea -- in fact, the most recent Amendment to the Constitution took over 200 years to be ratified! Why shouldn’t the ERA be given the same chance?

Women make up more than half of our work force, yet for every dollar a man makes, the average white woman makes $0.78, and the average Asian woman makes $0.85. Not having the ERA affects every woman, but it affects women of color more. An African American female makes $0.63 for every dollar a man makes, and a Latina makes $0.54. As a woman, you would stand to lose at least $400,000 compared to a man with the same job in your lifetime. If you want to become a doctor or lawyer, you stand to lose $2,000,000! And to make it worse, the AAUW reports that if nothing changes, we won't earn equal pay in our lifetimes and we're in middle school!

April 2 was Equal Pay Day, which represents the time it takes for a woman to make what a white man made at the end of last year. It takes over three months for a woman to get caught up. It takes even longer if you are a woman of color. This happens every year a woman is in the workforce.

If you’re a man, you may not think this affects you, but you are wrong. It may not affect you in your paycheck, but it affects every woman in your life: your mother, your wife, your girlfriend, your daughter, your sister, your roommate, your friend. And if your partner is a woman and you share expenses, you are getting shortchanged, too! Women are now the major breadwinners in 49% of households, including 42% of families!

With at least 500,000 signatures in favor of ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, we can put more pressure on Congress, after 243 years, to finally pass it. It is the only way women can be guaranteed long term equal pay and equal rights. Even Justice Antonin Scalia said that women are not guaranteed equality under our Constitution as it is written.

No matter your gender, it is your duty to end this injustice. All girls and women deserve equal pay and equal rights guaranteed by our Constitution. You can make a difference. Don’t just stand by. Every signature counts. The future of equality depends on you. 

84% of the world's countries provide for gender equality in their constitutions. Isn't it time for the "leader of the free world" to be one of them?

 


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