Transcript: Sen. Lamar Alexander’s opening statement on the Paycheck Fairness Act – April 1, 2014
Partial transcript of remarks by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) on the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing was held on April 1, 2014:
…I thank you for the hearing. I think it ought to be on a different subject. I think it ought to be about more flexibility for working parents.
This bill is about more litigation, more lawyers, higher income for trial lawyers, and more class action lawsuits whether you want them on your behalf or not.
Let me tell a story to suggest why I believe instead we should be talking about more flexibility for working parents.
Years ago in my private life, I helped start a company with Bob Keeshan and Captain Kangaroo and my wife and a couple of others that later merged with Bright Horizons and became the largest worksite daycare provider in the country.
We recognized that probably the most important social phenomenon in our country over the last 30 or 40 years are the number of women working outside the home.
And typically, many of them have young children and the idea was that we would help corporations provide worksite daycare centers that were safe and good for those moms and dads as well who worked with young children outside the home.
We did a lot of surveys, and what we found that in many cases more important than pay was flexibility in the workforce – that a mom or a dad with a young child who was working outside the home didn’t want to miss the school play, didn’t want to miss a football game, want to be available to deal with a sick child.
I tell that story because I think instead of a law like the one proposed here, which would literally reduce the flexibility that employers have to provide men and women in the workplace with more flexibility to go to a football game or the school play. I think we need more flexibility, not a mandate. We need to enable employers to do that.
Let me give you an example or two.
Take a school where an employer might want to say, as we did in Tennessee 30 years ago, we’re going to pay teachers more for teaching well. That’s a very subjective thing to do.
Or we might be in a situation where we had a need for – we wanted to encourage girls to become more interested in mathematics. And to do that, we might like to hire an outstanding woman teacher in mathematics and science to be in the classroom. We might have to pay her more than we do a man because she has so many other opportunities if she has those talents.
Or on the other hand, we might have a rough school where we need a man who is a strong role model for boys who cause a lot of trouble. Sometimes we might have to pay that man more than a woman.
We might be in a situation in another worksite where a mom might say, “Well, I’ve got two kids. I’d rather have the day shift than the night shift”, and for exactly the same work you might pay a man more for the night shift or vice versa.
Under current law, arguably, you could do many of those things. Under the proposed law, it would reduce the chances for – it would reduce the flexibility the employers have in the workforce.
And so I would like to see a hearing and I hope we’ll have plenty of opportunities, Madam Chairman, to amend this proposal, and then debate it here in the committee, and then go to the floor where I’ll have a number of amendments.
I’ve noticed – and I hope you don’t mind my saying this – I will get my Democratic friends credit for being very forthright about what they’re doing here.
Here’s a big article in the New York Times a few days ago where Sen. Schumer announces the 10-part political plan, including this bill, to try to re-capture some political ground because of the disaster Obamacare has been. And they say, “Privately, White House officials” – this is the New York Times – “say they have no intention of searching for any grand bargain with Republicans on any of the issues.” The point isn’t to compromise.
I give them credit for being straightforward.
But my suggestion would be that the Democratic jobs agenda is more like a war on jobs. Obamacare is causing restaurant companies to reduce the number of employees. We had testimony right here on the minimum wage where the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said it will cost 500,000 jobs.
And the Paycheck Fairness proposal – so-called – really reduces the flexibility that employers would have to help working parents go to the school play or have other opportunities to be with their children.
So we have great differences of opinion here and I’m looking forward to hearing the witnesses. I’m looking forward to offering a number of amendments when we mark the bill up, and when it comes to the floor, we’ll have a large number of amendments aimed at the goal of giving working parents more flexibility in the workplace so they can be better parents.
Thank you, Madam Chairman.