Equal Pay Victory at the White House!April 08, 2014
Happy Equal Pay Day! I’m just back from the White House, and I want to share everything that has happened. Earlier today President Barack Obama signed two executive orders to increase pay protections for women. At the signing ceremony, he was introduced by AAUW friend and fair pay champion Lilly Ledbetter. It must have felt like déjà vu for both of them — she also stood by his side when he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law in 2009, the first bill he ever signed. I was proud to be there in 2009 and prouder still to be there today, watching the president sign two orders for which AAUW members and supporters have been pushing for years.
It’s no coincidence that the president signed these orders on Equal Pay Day, the day when women’s median earnings finally catch up to what the average man earned last year. The executive orders aim to address the gender pay discrimination that’s behind this “holiday.”
The first executive order bans federal contractors from retaliating against workers who talk about their salaries. Federal contractors make up a quarter of the civilian workforce, so this is a significant step forward. Many workers don’t discuss their salaries for fear of being punished. Indeed, that’s what kept Lilly from discussing her own salary at Goodyear. The second executive order tells the U.S. Department of Labor to collect wage data from federal contractors, including the race, sex, and national origin of employees. This will help identify patterns of discrimination and support voluntary compliance. These two orders send a clear message to companies awarded government contracts that they cannot discriminate with taxpayer money.
It’s terrific that the president signed these executive orders, but they won’t protect every worker and there are still loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963 that must be closed. That’s why we must keep calling on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act! We need equal pay for equal work for everyone.