Sen. Patty Murray has joined the five U.S. Women’s National Soccer players in a fight against pay disparities.
Just because it’s football season doesn’t mean the U.S. Women’s National Soccer team is finished competing.
They’re still not getting paid what they deserve.
Eight months ago, five top members of the team filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging that their team had been paid significantly less than their male counterparts.
This, despite the fact that they had won four Olympic gold medals (three consecutively) and three FIFA Women’s World Cup titles.
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The best the men ever did was to place fourth in the 2000 Olympics, and third in the World Cup — in 1930.
Still, U.S. Soccer called the complaint (signed by Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe) misleading, because the men and women are paid differently under collective-bargaining agreements. In June, just before the Summer Olympics, a federal judge agreed, ruling that the women did not have the right to seek improved conditions and wages — or strike — until their contract expires in December.
Two weeks ago, Sen. Patty Murray made it clear she hadn’t forgotten about the players’ payroll plight. In a letter to the head of Soccer United Marketing, Murray asked for detailed information on the commercial and revenue agreements that might explain the wage disparity between the men’s and women’s teams.
“We strongly believe that pay disparities like the one between the teams send the wrong message to young people and have no place in the 21st century economy,” reads the letter, signed by Murray and her colleague, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.
According to the EEOC filing, the women would earn $99,000 each if they won 20 “friendlies,” the minimum number they are required to play in a year. The men would earn $263,320 each for the same feat, and would get $100,000 even if they lost all 20 games.
Additionally, the women get paid nothing for playing more than 20 games, while the men get between $5,000 and $17,625 for each game played beyond 20.
It’s clear that Murray isn’t only seeking equal pay for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. She’s using the team to score better wages for the women who sweat it out every day in this country.
Last May, Murray and 17 of her Senate colleagues introduced a bill urging the U.S. Soccer Federation to end pay disparities for all athletes. That passed the Senate.
Now she and her fellow Senate Democrats are calling for Republicans to back the Paycheck Fairness Act. The measure would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information with their co-workers, strengthen penalties for equal-pay violations and hold employers accountable for proving that wage gaps between men and women are caused by factors aside from gender.
That last part could get a little dicey, as “gender” covers much of why women aren’t always given the opportunity and pay they deserve.
They are the ones who bear children and arguably serve as the primary caregivers in their families. So they leave the office a little earlier than their male colleagues to see a doctor, pick the kids up from school or care for an older relative. They really don’t stop working, even when they’re not in the office or on the clock.
It’s an old — and boring — story that’s been told a million times.
But there are just as many tales being told about why women are being shorted.
U.S. Soccer gave it its best shot, attributing its players’ pay disparity to the fact that the men’s team generates three times more revenue for U.S. Soccer than the women’s team. Officials also suggested that some networks may only be interested in carrying the men’s games and prefer not to broadcast the women’s games at all.
But that makes no sense. Murray’s letter cited stats from U.S. Soccer’s 2016 Annual General meeting which said that the 2015 Women’s World Cup viewership on Fox networks set a record for soccer in general.
“The Women’s Team is a source of national pride,” Murray wrote, “and serves as an inspiration to young athletes across the United States and around the world.”
These women are clearly and consistently meeting and exceeding expectations. And in any other arena, that means top money, plus bonuses — and not having to file a complaint to get it.
Equal pay isn’t a game. And it shouldn’t be just a goal, but a reality.