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Obama Administration Announces New Programs and Action for Equal Pay

President Barack Obama Obama released a statement today outlining his support for the elimination of wage discrimination. In the President's statement, he said, "Paycheck discrimination hurts families who lose out on badly needed income. And with so many families depending on women's wages, it hurts the American economy as a whole. In difficult economic times like these, we simply cannot afford this discriminatory burden." Specifically, the President urged the Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would amend the "Equal Pay Act to revise remedies for, enforcement of, and exceptions to prohibitions against sex discrimination in the payment of wages."

The President's announcement comes on the same day as the release of recommendations from the Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force to advance equal pay for women. The recommendations were released today by Vice President Joseph Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder, and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis at a large event attended by many women leaders. According to a White House press release, the Task Force's recommendations include maximizing the effectiveness of existing authorities, collecting "data on the private workforce to better understand the scope of the pay gap and target enforcement efforts," undertaking "a public education campaign to educate employers on their obligations and employees on their rights," working to make the federal government as a model employer, and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Feminist Majority President Eleanor Smeal said of the recommendations, "The White House Action led by Vice President Joe Biden is exactly what is needed to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act for women workers in the Senate before it adjourns this session." Smeal continued, "In this recession, it is very clear for most Americans a woman's paycheck is needed for the family to stay out of poverty. Women cannot continue to be shortchanged if they and the families that depend upon them are to stay in or reach the middle class."

The House of Representatives passed the Paycheck Fairness Act in August, 2008, and the bill is now under consideration in the Senate. Smeal said in her statement, "The White House today is not only urging the Senate to act now, but it is also taking a historic pledge to have the federal government become a model employer on equal pay for women, and to wage a public education campaign for employers (including the federal government) to know the responsibility to end pay discrimination and for women workers to know their rights."

Women today still earn just 77 cents for every dollar men make. As Smeal said, "For feminists who have worked for equal pay for decades, at last, we are getting traction - real momentum - from the top. And we are not going to rest until equal pay for women is a reality."

Media Resources: Statement of President Obama 7/20/10; Feminist Majority Press Release 7/20/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 6/11/10; Feminist Daily Newswire 8/1/08

© Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine

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