President Obama will sign two new executive orders on Tuesday on equal pay for women. Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, which falls on the date that “symbolizes how far into 2014 women must work to earn the same amount of money men earned last year”. The two orders are provisions of the Paycheck Fairness Act. The first would prohibit government contractors from retaliating against employees who share their salary information. The second executive order creates new Department of Labor regulations that require federal contractors to report their employees’ salaries to the government. The Paycheck Fairness Act has twice failed to pass in Congress. The Senate will again vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act on Tuesday, though it is predicted that the House will not bring it to the floor. The bill would go beyond impacting women employed by federal contractors to all employed women.
The executive orders are obviously wonderful things that will help the cause of equal pay, but they are not enough. They only impact employees of federal contractors, which is an estimated 17% of the American workforce, according to Professor Light of New York University. That sounds small, but it includes about 40 million people, or one in every six workers. The executive orders are strong steps forward in a battle that should have been won long ago. The fact that an equal pay act cannot be passed in 2014 is astounding and idiotic. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) said last week that he opposes the Paycheck Fairness Act because it was a “political move by the Democrats that would only result in ‘more lawsuits’, not equal pay for women”. I find it very hard to believe that that is his reason for opposing the bill.