Dems work to deflect threat to equal pay
Democrats in Congress will celebrate “Equal Pay Day” on Tuesday by reintroducing legislation that would strengthen protections for women in the workplace, part of a nationwide effort to channel the energy of women mobilized to political action since the election of President Trump.
The effort comes as pay equity advocates are concerned about legislative and executive efforts to roll back equal pay enforcement.
First daughter Ivanka Trump said she’s “very passionate” about wage equality and pledged during the presidential campaign that her father would fight for “equal pay for equal work.” Women working full time in the USA were typically paid 80% of what men were paid in 2015, and the pay gap was worse for women of color, according to a recent study.
President Trump’s own statements have been less clear. He has said he supports pay based on performance, but he
expressed concerns in 2015 about equal pay legislation if “everybody ends up making the same pay,” likening such a result to “a socialist society.”
An ad hoc coalition of business associations, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, urged the Trump administration to roll back an Obama-era initiative designed to reduce wage disparities by requiring big employers to report pay data based on race, gender and ethnicity. The Office of Management and Budget is reviewing the group’s request to prevent the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from collecting this data.
“It was pushed through under the prior administration because it met a political goal. But as far as the substance and merits, there just isn’t any that would justify it being kept on the books,” Chamber of Commerce Vice President Randy Johnson said.
Women’s groups will rally around the country Tuesday to push back. Equal Pay Day symbolizes the date when working women’s wages catch up to what men were paid the previous year. Given the energy behind recent women’s marches, pay equity advocates expect strong participation in events in all 50 states, including rallies at statehouses, lobbying visits and even bake sales, in which men will be charged $1 for baked goods and women 80 cents. Three hundred businesses in 25 cities will participate in the #20PercentCounts campaign that offers 20% discounts or special offers to women and in some cases men.
Advocates hope to ramp up lobbying behind federal legislation that would strengthen the Equal Pay Act, a 1963 law prohibiting wage disparity based on gender. The Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., will reintroduce Tuesday for the 11th time, aims to strengthen an aggrieved worker’s position in court, prohibit retaliation against workers and improve federal enforcement of anti-discrimination laws.
“In the wake of the Women’s March and the incredible energy we are seeing around political activism by women in particular, we expect this Equal Pay Day to be a big day,” said Emily Martin with the National Women’s Law Center.
“What’s fascinating is the kind of activity we’re seeing around Equal Pay Day this year — not just the creativity of it but frankly the enormity of it,” said Lisa Maatz with the American Association of University Women.
Equal pay legislation has been introduced in 40 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico this year.