Just ahead of its first match in the FIFA Women’s World Cup on Tuesday, the US women’s national soccer team got a shout out on the Senate floor from Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who reminded everyone how much less the players get paid than their male counterparts.
“The women make just as much of a sacrifice, put in just as much mental and physical energy, absorb just as much risk of injury as the men who play for our national team,” Schumer said. “Yet, when you break it down, a women’s national soccer team player earns a base salary of $3,600 per game while a men’s player earns $5,000.”
Female soccer players earn a much smaller bonus in the World Cup ($15,000) than male players ($55,000). And here’s a stark comparison: the US Soccer Federation awarded the men’s team a $5.4 million bonus after losing in Round 16 of the 2014 World Cup. It awarded the women’s team $1.7 million when it won the entire 2015 tournament.
“Discrimination staring us all in the face,” Schumer said. “These women, who inspire our country with their poise, tenacity, skill and excellence every time they take the field deserve to be fairly compensated.”
The US women’s national team has won three World Cup titles, four Olympic gold medals and is easily the most successful team in the history of women’s soccer. Despite all that, it has been fighting for equal pay for years.
In 2016, five prominent members of the team filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that the U.S. Soccer Federation was paying them considerably less due to sexism. They signed a new collective bargaining agreement in 2017 that got them some additional pay but still didn’t put them on par with the men.
So in March 2019, on International Women’s Day, 28 members of the team filed a lawsuit accusing US Soccer of “institutionalised gender discrimination,” a violation of both the Equal Pay Act and the Civil Rights Act. It looks like they’re heading to trial next year.
US Soccer has used several arguments to defend its pay structure, like the fact that FIFA offers more prize money for men’s competitions than women’s, which is true and is mostly outside US Soccer’s control. But there are factors that are in US Soccer’s control: The revenues are there. It’s sitting on a budget surplus of $150 million. It could use at least some of that to grow the business and invest in the game. It is choosing not to.
Schumer said one thing that would help the team ― and women everywhere ― would be for the Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would close loopholes in the landmark Equal Pay Act of 1963 and require employers to be much more transparent about how much they’re paying workers. The bill passed the Democrat-led House in March but is going nowhere in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has all but stopped passing bills.
“So as the women of Team USA take the field today, I call on Leader McConnell to bring up the House legislation already passed that would aid in their fight for equal pay,” Schumer said.