3 Reasons President Obama Needs to Act Now on the Gender Pay Gap


For almost two years now, we’ve asked President Barack Obama to issue an executive order that would ban federal contractors from retaliating against workers who talk about their salaries or ask about pay practices. With this action, the president could protect 22 percent of the nation’s workforce — or 26 million workers — from facing retaliation or even being fired just because they chatted with co-workers about whether they were receiving equal pay for equal work.

The president has yet to speak publicly on this anti-retaliation executive order, but we need to spread the word that now is the right time for him to act. Here’s why:

  1. During last month’s State of the Union address, Obama spoke of his desire to make 2014 a year of action and of his willingness to act without Congress:

    “But America does not stand still — and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.” With women as the sole or primary earners for 40 percent of American families, they need equal pay for equal work to make ends meet. The anti-retaliation executive order would help close the gender pay gap and is something the president can do right now without waiting for Congress. It’s a win-win situation.

  2. The president also pledged to raise the minimum wage for new government contract workers in his State of the Union address.

    That’s great news because anything that raises the minimum wage will help women, who make up almost two-thirds of minimum wage workers. But if Obama intends to issue an executive order on the minimum wage, there’s no reason he shouldn’t issue the anti-retaliation executive order as well. Like the minimum wage executive order, the anti-retaliation executive order applies only to federal contract workers and targets wage inequality. The two executive orders go hand in hand — and both could be on his desk right now. Without this commonsense combination, some federal employees will get a wage hike, but they still won’t be able to talk about it.

  3. The anti-retaliation executive order has buzz on Capitol Hill and in the media.

    Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and 56 Democratic congresswomen recently wrote a letter to Obama asking him to issue the executive order. AAUW and Lilly Ledbetter lobbied for the executive order in boththe Washington Post and ForbesWoman, and the New York Times echoed our call in a staff editorial. Plus, the Washington Post described the executive order as a key call to action by Ledbetter during hervisit to Washington, D.C., for the State of the Union and the fifth anniversary of her namesake law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The president relies on Ledbetter, the members of Congress, and AAUW to help him advance policies that support women — and we’re all telling him the anti-retaliation executive order is the next step.

Although we still need Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to protect all workers from being retaliated against or fired for discussing their salaries, the president can act on his own right now to protect almost a quarter of the nation’s workforce. Join us in urging him to act.

This piece was cross-posted with permission from AAUW 

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