Obama’s Long Battle For Equal Pay
Calls for change and executive action belie a history of Congressional gridlock
Barack Obama started his first term with a push for equal pay, and Friday, he revealed he still wants that to be part of his legacy.
The president announced a new set of rules that would require companies with more than 100 employees to give the government the sex, age, and racial identities of employees along with their salary data—so the information can be monitored for problematic pay practices.
“What kind of example does paying women less set for our sons and daughters?” he asked in the announcement, which took place on the seventh anniversary of the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act; the very first bill he signed while in office. Friday’s action would go into effect this September, just a few months before he leaves the White House.
Despite the fact that the wage gap closed significantly in the 20 years following 1980, progress has remained largely stagnant. And while slight gains were made from 2012 to 2014, women in the U.S. still make only 79 percent of what a white man does (less if they are women of color), and the U.S. lags behind average industrialized countries by 2.5 percentage points when it comes to gender-based wage parity.
Friday’s order is of a piece with the kinds of maneuvering Obama has increasingly used to enact his agenda. Since he’s taken office, members of the Republican party have routinely blocked proposed legislation meant to enhance the Equal Pay Act of 1963, spurring some Democratic governors to also take matters into their own hands.