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Mr. President, Walk With Us On Our Journey for Equal Pay

Deborah J. Vagins,
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
Georgeanne M. Usova,
Former Senior Legislative Counsel
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April 4, 2013

Today, the ACLU joined over 100 organizations to send a letter to President Obama asking for executive action to combat pay discrimination.

For far too long, equal pay has been out of reach for many women as a result of workplace discrimination. We know that President Obama agrees, because he made the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act the first bill he signed into law and has repeatedly called on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would repair loopholes that, over the last half century, have weakened the Equal Pay Act of 1963—the legislation that President John F. Kennedy hoped would be a first step towards securing equal pay for equal work. Sadly, half a century later, we have many more steps to take before President Kennedy’s vision is fulfilled: women still earn, on average, just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. And women of color take home even less.

As President Obama told the entire nation in his second inaugural address, “our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts.” There’s no question that passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act will help to achieve that goal, but until that happens, we urge this Administration to do everything in its power to immediately provide women with the tools they need to learn about and fight discrimination in the workplace.

With Equal Pay Day coming up on April 9, we’ve asked the President to take immediate action to ensure equal pay, even as he continues to champion the Paycheck Fairness Act. Specifically, we are calling on the President to issue an executive order that would prohibit retaliation against employees of federal contractors for discussing or inquiring about their wages.

With the stroke of a pen, such an executive order would immediately protect the 26 million Americans who work for federal contractors—roughly 20% of the American workforce. We’re also asking the Department of Labor to finalize its compensation data collection tool in order to collect employment data that will help to highlight disparities and indicate where possible discrimination exists.

The journey for pay equity is a long one—as the last half century has shown—but we ask President Obama to take the next step with us.

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