In 1938 Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Amendments, or FLSA, which, among other things, set a national minimum wage and protected children from child labor. This law has been amended many times throughout the decades since to include a variety of protections for children and adults in the workforce.
In 1963 Congress expanded the FLSA with the Equal Pay Act, which prohibited "sex-based wage discrimination between men and women in the same establishment who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions."
The Equal Pay Act was signed by President John F. Kennedy, who said he hoped the law would stop the "unconscionable practice of paying female employees less wages than male employees for the same job." At the time, about one out of three women worked outside of the home.
Today, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 64 percent of mothers with kids under the age of 18 work outside the home, and many of these women are the primary income for their family. In 1966 protections for some farm workers were added to the FLSA. Age discrimination was prohibited in 1967. Protections for government employees were added in 1974, and seasonal agricultural workers in 1983. Overtime protections were added in 1986.
Additions and changes to the FLSA were approved and signed by Democratic and Republican presidents throughout the years. President George W. Bush reaffirmed the FLSA protections in 2004 and 2007.
But bipartisan support for FLSA protections has come to an end with the current group of Republicans in Congress who have decided that the rights of businesses are more important than the rights of individuals or the discrimination of women in the workforce.
The war against women continued last week when the House of Representatives voted 226 to 192 to stop the Paycheck Fairness Act from coming to a vote. The Paycheck Fairness Act is the 2013 version of the Equal Pay Act. Interestingly, not only are Republicans against the act, but don't even want members of Congress to vote on it. Every Republican present in the House voted against allowing a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act.
U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina, stated that the bill was a "liberal plot" by Democrats to make Republicans look like they are anti-women. Actually, I think Republicans do that really well without any help. But Foxx did try to warn her friends in Congress. "I say to my Republican colleagues, take a hard look at who voted in the last election," Foxx said. "They were mostly women. And they're looking at who's doing what."
Foxx wasn't the only observer to wonder what Republicans were thinking when they unanimously voted to block a vote on the Equal Pay Act. Soon after the vote, University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato reminded his friends on Facebook that 58 percent of voters in the last presidential election were, indeed, women. That was not a fluke. Women averaged 57 percent of all voters over the last four presidential elections, according to Sabato.
While Republicans in Congress have a problem regulating equal pay for women in the workforce, they have no problem regulating women's reproductive activities. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan said last week that Republicans wanted a country "where abortion is simply outlawed." Add that to their efforts to eliminate birth control from all health insurance policies and you have to wonder if Republicans are purposely trying to turn off women voters.