White House to stress equal pay in policy, political push
April 6th, 2014
11:57 AM ET
5 months ago

White House to stress equal pay in policy, political push

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama will go back to the first law he signed as president on Tuesday, addressing equal pay with two new executive actions that satisfy both policy and political priorities within the White House.

According to a White House official, Obama's executive actions will focus on "pay secrecy," the idea that women who are paid less than their male counterparts may not know it because they don't know what other employees are making.

"If women do not even know that they are underpaid, they cannot take steps to remedy the pay gap," said the official. "For example, Lilly Ledbetter was paid less than her male co-workers for decades without realizing it until someone took a risk and slipped her an anonymous note."

When Obama entered the White House in 2009, the first law he signed was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a law named for an Alabama grandmother who became a champion for equal pay after men in her Goodyear plant doing similar work had been paid up to 40% more.

The law allowed a victim of pay-based discrimination to file a complaint to the government within 180 days of their most recent paychecks, as opposed to within 180 days of the first unfair paycheck.

The first executive order Obama will sign will prohibit "federal contractors from retaliating against employees who choose to discuss their compensation," according to the White House official. The second order will ask the secretary of labor to establish new requirements for federal contractors to submit summaries of pay data, including a breakdown of sex and race.

"The Department of Labor will use the data to encourage voluntary compliance with equal pay laws, and allowing more targeted enforcement by focusing efforts where there are discrepancies, reducing burdens on other employers," the official added.

Tuesday's executive orders are just as much about politics as policy.

Democrats feel that equal pay is a winning issue in the 2014 midterm elections. Obama worked the issue into his last State of the Union address when he demanded Congress pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. Obama called the income disparity between genders an "embarrassment" and proclaimed that "women deserve equal pay for equal work."

Democratic strategists also see equal pay as a way to galvanize the base and raise money in a midterm election that will see less turnout and excitement than a presidential election year. By keeping the issue in the news, Democrats hope to benefit in the long term by showcasing GOP presidential hopefuls who oppose equal pay protections.

Many Republicans, however, see laws like the Lilly Ledbetter Act and Paycheck Fairness Act as an effort to "help trial lawyers collect their fees and file lawsuits," as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said in 2012 about the Ledbetter law. Another 2016 hopeful, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, said the Paycheck Fairness Act would interfere with the free market.

CNN's Peter Hamby contributed to this report.


Filed under: President Obama • White House
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. Tampa Tim

    Many Republicans, however, see laws like the Lilly Ledbetter Act and Paycheck Fairness Act as an effort to "help trial lawyers collect their fees and file lawsuits," as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said in 2012 about the Ledbetter law. Another 2016 hopeful, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, said the Paycheck Fairness Act would interfere with the free market.
    ---–
    Republicans showing, once again, that if you are poor, a woman, a senior, a minority, a student, a veteran, an American worker, that you will not get any GOP support. However, if you are a big corporation or a billionaire, hubba, hubba, they love you.

    April 6, 2014 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  2. rla

    Again a distortion and lte for political gain.... The 77% number floated around by the progressives is an average and does not take into consideration women who stay home or are more likely than men to take part time jobs- This equals a skewed number,,,, When apples are compared to apples the differences is 95-98% of a mans pay. In other words the books are again being cooked to gain political advantage,,,, When is America going to wake up to the fact that this is a Chicago Pol who cares for power and very little for you or I or the country

    April 6, 2014 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  3. Hector Slagg

    So,
    No doubt everybody wants to make as much as possible. That is called the Free Enterprise System. By working hard and applying yourself you most likely will be more than successful or at least be above the poverty line. When the Government passes laws to level the playing field, as good as it sounds, they may be doing just the opposite and killing jobs. Business, not like government have to look at the bottom line. To stay in business they have to make a profit, or go out of business. No matter how you put it together or take it apart, you aren't going to make more than the going rate, if you are smart. There ain't no perfect solution, as the Old Soviet Union learned.

    April 6, 2014 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  4. Name jk. Sfl. THE KOCH BROTHERS GOP STOOGES PARTY NEEDS to be VOTED OUT IN NOVEMBER !!!!

    Let see, the GOP CLOWNS are AGAINEST , minimum wage , Medicare medicade HEALTHCARE aca ,equal pay for woman soc sec , gay rights, imagration reform, tax reform and much more. They are for NO regulation , no EPA ,No education , no voters rights, more tax breaks for the Koch CLOWNS, no FDA , no FEMA unless they have a flood in THEIR district, no goverment services at all. I'm VOTING democrate for everybody on the ballot. I don't know why any republicians would even vote GOP, they only represent the ONE% of republicians NOT YOU!!!!!!

    April 6, 2014 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  5. Gurgyl

    In this nation, lawyers are the main problem, entire legal system needs to be revamped. These idiots are going greedy, avaricious and nasty. Raise the minimum wage with equal pay clause.

    April 6, 2014 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |