Dems work to de­flect threat to equal pay

USA TODAY US Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Ni­cole Gau­di­ano

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.

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