Paychecks and Protections Get Less Fair
As UUs, we rightly focused inward last week (and moving forward) on our own associational practices of inequity and grievous lack of parity. At the same time, Trump is – in the words of Associated Press reporter Darlene Superville – steadily plugging away at a major piece of his agenda: undoing Obama and the progressive policies and reforms he put in place during his presidency.
Yesterday was Equal Pay Day – the day that marks how far into 2017 women employed full time, year-round in the U.S. have to work in order to catch up with what men were paid in 2016. At the start of April, sometimes also called the cruelest month, please pay attention to a cruel move Trump made on March 27 when he revoked the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Order, which ensured that companies with federal contacts comply with 14 labor and civil rights laws and which also rolled back protections and actions against contractors who were found guilty of wage discrimination and sexual harassment.
Trump’s overturn – done with little notice – has eliminated the requirement put in place through an executive order by President Obama that companies with federal contracts be transparent in providing evidence that there was no gender discrimination in pay. The Order also banned forced arbitration clauses for claims of sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination. These protections are now gone.
While there is still a significant overall gap between the rate of pay for white women and white men (75% according to 2016 stats), for Hispanic or Latina (54%), Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders, American Indian, and Alaska Native women (58%) and African American women (63%) the gap is much higher. With gratitude to persistent leaders inside and outside Congress, yesterday an effort was made to bring back for reconsideration a bill that has been in the queue for passage since 1997.
In the words of Debra Ness, CEO of the National Partnership for Work and Family, “It is encouraging that champions for women and working families in Congress are reintroducing the Paycheck Fairness Act on Equal Pay Day. The day is always a painful reminder that the gender wage gap persists in all corners of the country, and that it has damaging consequences that ripple throughout our workplaces, families, communities and the economy.”
Ness explains that the Paycheck Fairness Act would combat the pay discrimination that contributes to the wage gap. Specifically, it would prohibit employers from retaliating against workers for discussing their wages and limit the use of applicants’ salary history in the hiring process. It would also recognize employers with good pay practices, provide assistance to small businesses that need help adopting strong policies, create a negotiation skills training program, and enhance federal agencies’ ability to investigate and enforce pay discrimination laws.