WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Women's National Team gained another ally in its fight for equal pay on Thursday, when the Senate unanimously approved a non-binding resolution calling on the U.S. Soccer Federation to "immediately end gender pay inequity and to treat all athletes with the respect and dignity those athletes deserve."
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and 21 other Democrats introduced the resolution earlier this month, after five members of the USWNT filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in March, asking it to investigate whether soccer's American governing body had paid the athletes fairly.
The complaint asserted that the women earned 25 percent less than members of the U.S. Men's National Team. The U.S. Soccer Federation has disputed those numbers.
In a speech on the Senate floor Thursday, Murray lauded the USWNT for winning its third World Cup title last July and the past three Olympic gold medals.
“But despite all of these tremendous successes, these players do not get paid on par with their male counterparts," the senator said.
"This isn’t just about the money. It’s also about the message it sends to women and girls across our country and the world," she continued. “The pay gap between the men and women’s national soccer teams is emblematic of what is happening all across our country."
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) joined Murray on the floor to urge the U.S. Soccer Federation to "stop kicking these women around."
The pay gap between the men and women’s national soccer teams is emblematic of what is happening all across our country. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)
The resolution, which only applies public pressure on the soccer governing body, passed without objection. And while it provides further support to the USWNT in its ongoing battle, Murray and Mikulski also hope it will help advance the conversation on broader pay equity issues, including the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would bolster equal pay laws for American women.
“I am extremely proud that my Senate colleagues have adopted this resolution — these are great words of support for women across the country,” Murray stated after the resolution's approval. “Now, let’s back it up with action by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act! I am going to keep fighting for this legislation, so I urge all my colleagues to put partisanship aside, once again, and work to get this done.”
Republicans have repeatedly opposed efforts to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, and Senate Democrats have used the popularity and success of the women’s national team to highlight that opposition. The team drew 25 million U.S. television viewers for the World Cup final against Japan in 2015.
In October, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced a similar resolution aimed at FIFA, soccer's international governing body, to highlight the massive disparity in World Cup prize winnings. In 2014, Germany's men's team pocketed $35 million in prize money for winning the World Cup, while the USWNT received just $2 million for winning the following year.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) blocked Leahy's effort, saying that the Senate had "a budget to pass" and other issues to focus on.
This story has been updated with a statement from Sen. Patty Murray and more information about the Paycheck Fairness Act.