Obama, Republicans battle over bill on pay equity for women


By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House and congressional Republicans blasted each other on Tuesday over equal pay in a battle for women’s votes as Democrats try to hold the U.S. Senate in the November midterm elections.

President Barack Obama signed an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees for disclosing pay levels to co-workers and attacked Republicans for opposing broader legislation that would make the practice illegal for companies nationwide.

Republicans said pay discrimination was already illegal and predicted the Democrat-supported Paycheck Fairness Act would prompt frivolous lawsuits and discourage companies from hiring.

The Democratic-led Senate is set to hold a procedural vote on the measure on Wednesday but even if the legislation clears that chamber, the Republican-dominated House of Representatives appears likely to oppose it.

The dispute underscored the importance that both parties place on women voters in an election year where Democrats fear losing control of the Senate and Republicans are seeking to defend their dominance in the House of Representatives.

"I don’t know why you would resist the idea that women should be paid the same as men, and then deny that that’s not always happening out there," Obama said at the White House at an East Room event filled with women.

"If Republicans in Congress want to prove me wrong, if they want to show that they, in fact, do care about women being paid the same as men, then show me. They can start tomorrow. They can join us in this, the 21st century, and vote yes on the Paycheck Fairness Act."

Obama cited U.S. Census data that show the average full-time female worker earned 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. The U.S. Department of Labor says the gap is tighter, with women in full-time jobs earning 81 cents for every dollar men earn.

Critics, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a business lobby group, say both figures are misleading.

Other factors also affect the data, such as types of jobs worked by women, hours worked, and college majors, which affect whether people get higher- or lower-paying jobs, said Andrew Biggs, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

"The idea that there’s a 23 percent pay gap between men and women based on discrimination is flat-out false," he said.

The Republican National Committee accused Obama’s party of playing politics.

"These are the same Democrats who controlled the White House and Senate for the last five years but always seem to wait for an election year to push another empty promise," the RNC said in a memo distributed to reporters.

"The truth is the ‘Paycheck Fairness Act’ is a desperate political ploy. And Democrats are cynically betting that Americans aren’t smart enough to know better."


Support from women helped propel Obama to the White House in 2008 and 2012, and the president frequently recalls that the first bill he signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extended time periods for employees to file claims for wages lost as a result of discrimination.

Lilly Ledbetter, who fought for back pay after discovering she had been paid less than her male colleagues for doing the same job, joined Obama at the event.

Focus on the issue put a spotlight on White House practices, however, and Obama’s chief spokesman Jay Carney was forced to address data showing a pay gap between men and women working there. Carney said men and women with the same White House positions made equal pay.

The White House said Obama’s executive order would encourage transparency by allowing employees of federal contractors to compare notes on their pay, discover violations and seek corrective action.

Obama also directed the U.S. secretary of labor to create regulations that require federal contractors to submit to the government summary data on employee compensation including details on gender and race and use that to encourage voluntary compliance with equal pay laws.

"We know that about half of all workers report that discussion of wages and salary information is either discouraged or prohibited, and/or could lead to punishment," said Betsey Stevenson, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, in a conference call with reporters on Monday.

"So a lot of workers work under the threat that this could affect their job, this could cost them their job."

The Paycheck Fairness Act would require employers to show that any pay disparity between men and women is not gender-based. AEI’s Biggs said that would force employers to prove a negative.

(Additional reporting by Thomas Ferraro, Richard Cowan and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Caren Bohan and Eric Walsh)

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  • MaleMatters

    Here’s what Obama and the Democrats don’t want anyone to know about women, men, and the wage gap:

    In general, women not only live longer and enjoy better health than men, who die sooner and at a higher rate of the 12 leading causes of death, they also control most of consumer spending and most of the nation’s wealth. Soon they will control even more.

    “Over the next decade, women will control two thirds of consumer wealth in the United States and be the beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth in our country’s history. Estimates range from $12 to $40 trillion. Many Boomer women will experience a double inheritance windfall, from both parents and husband.” -http://www.she-conomy.com/facts-on-women

    Does this sound like the oppressed group that Obama and the Democrats would have you believe women are?

    Regarding women’s “77 cents to men’s dollar for the same work,” I suspect that many if not most of pay-equity advocates think employers are greedy profiteers who’d hire only illegal immigrants for their lower labor cost if they could get away with it. Or who’d move their business to a cheap-labor country to save money. Or replace older workers with younger ones for the same reason. So why do these same advocates think employers would NOT hire only women if, as they say, employers DO get away with paying females at a lower rate than males for the same work?

    Here’s one of countless examples showing that some of the most sophisticated women in the country choose to earn less while getting paid at the same rate as their male counterparts:

    “In 2011, 22% of male physicians and 44% of female physicians worked less than full time, up from 7% of men and 29% of women from Cejka’s 2005 survey.” ama-assn.org/amednews/2012/03/26/bil10326.htm

    A thousand laws won’t close that gap.

    In fact, no law yet has closed the gender wage gap — not the 1963 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, not Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, not the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, not affirmative action (which has benefited mostly white women, the group most vocal about the wage gap – tinyurl.com/74cooen), not the 1991 amendments to Title VII, not the 1991 Glass Ceiling Commission created by the Civil Rights Act, not the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act, not diversity, not the countless state and local laws and regulations, not the thousands of company mentors for women, not the horde of overseers at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and not the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which is another feel-good bill that turned into another do-nothing law (political intentions disguised as good intentions do not necessarily make things better; sometimes they make things worse)…. Nor will a “paycheck fairness” law work.

    That’s because women’s pay-equity advocates, who always insist one more law is needed, continue to overlook the effects of female AND male behavior:

    Despite the 40-year-old demand for women’s equal pay, millions of wives still choose to have no pay at all. In fact, according to Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of “The Secrets of Happily Married Women,” stay-at-home wives, including the childless who represent an estimated 10 percent, constitute a growing niche. “In the past few years,” he says in a CNN report at tinyurl.com/6reowj, “many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home.” (“Census Bureau data show that 5.6 million mothers stayed home with their children in 2005, about 1.2 million more than did so a decade earlier….” at tinyurl.com/qqkaka. If indeed a higher percentage of women is staying at home, perhaps it’s because feminists and the media have told women for years that female workers are paid less than men in the same jobs — so why bother working outside the home if they’re going to be penalized and humiliated for being a woman, as illustrated by such titles as this: “Gender wage gap sees women spend 7 weeks working for nothing” http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/cwgbaueysnsn/rss2/.)

    As full-time mothers or homemakers, stay-at-home wives earn zero. How can they afford to do this while in many cases living in luxury? Answer: Because they’re supported by their husband, an “employer” who pays them to stay at home. (Far more wives are supported by a spouse than are husbands.)

    The implication of this is probably obvious to most 12-year-olds but seems incomprehensible to, or is wrongly dismissed as irrelevant by, feminists and the liberal media: If millions of wives are able to accept NO wages, millions of other wives, whose husbands’ incomes vary, are more often able than husbands to:

    -accept low wages

    -refuse overtime and promotions

    -choose jobs based on interest first, wages second — the reverse of what men tend to do (The most popular job for American women as of 2010 is still secretary/administrative assistant, which has been a top ten job for women for the last 50 years. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/11/gender-wage-gap_n_3424084.html)

    -take more unpaid days off

    -avoid uncomfortable wage-bargaining (tinyurl.com/3a5nlay)

    -work fewer hours than their male counterparts, or work less than full-time more often than their male counterparts (as in the above example regarding physicians)

    Any one of these job choices lowers women’s median pay relative to men’s. And when a wife makes one of the choices, her husband often must take up the slack, thereby increasing HIS pay.

    Women who make these choices are generally able to do so because they are supported — or, if unmarried, anticipate being supported — by a husband who feels pressured to earn more than if he’d chosen never to marry. (Married men earn more than single men, but even many men who shun marriage, unlike their female counterparts, feel their self worth is tied to their net worth.) This is how MEN help create the wage gap: as a group they tend more than women to pass up jobs that interest them for ones that pay well.

    Other ways the wage gap is created:

    -Far more men than women link their self-worth to their net-worth.

    -Far more women than men seek spouses with a high net-worth (hypergamy)

    -Far more single women than single men ask prospective dates, “What do you do?” And (because of hypergamy) they listen more closely to the answer.

    -Far more women than men expect their spouse to be the primary provider who will give them the option of staying at home to raise the children, while the spouse raises the income that pays her to raise the children.

    -Far more women look at a prospective spouse as an “employer” who will pay them to stay at home when they choose to do so.

    “The more alarming wage gap might be the one between mothers and childless women: One recent paper (http://www.npr.org/2012/02/07/146522483/the-wage-gap-between-moms-other-working-women) found that women with kids make roughly 7 to 14 percent less than women without them.” So why do organized feminists and the liberal media focus only on — and criticize — the wage gap between men and women? http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/02/the-mommy-track-myth/283557/

    More in “Does the Ledbetter Act Help Women?” at http://malemattersusa.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/will-the-ledbetter-fair-pay-act-help-women/