Obama To Take Executive Action On Equal Pay

President Obama plans to sign two executive actions on April 8 which will increase wage transparency for government contractors.

Obama To Take Executive Action On Equal Pay
The White House / Pete Souza

President Obama has made gender equality in the workplace a major part of his 2014 agenda.

OBAMA: "It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a 'Mad Men' episode." (Via The White House)

Now the president is about to sign two new executive actions working to achieve that goal — for federal contractors, at least.

CNN reports both measures will focus on transparency: one of the orders will prohibit contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their salaries, and the other will require contractors to report demographic salary data to the government.

ThinkProgress notes ending the secrecy surrounding wages is a key step to closing the pay gap between men and women, because "not having the ability to openly discuss your salary means that you'd have no idea if you were getting serially under-paid."

The president plans to sign these two actions on April 8, also known as Pay Equity Day by activists. That's the approximate day on which the average women's wages catch up to the amount the average man made in 2013. (Via The Huffington Post)

And a White House offical says that Lilly Ledbetter, the equal pay activist whose struggle against discrimination at her job inspired the first law Obama signed in 2009, will be attending the ceremony. (Via C-SPAN)

But Obama's actions will only affect employees of federal contractors — that's about one-fifth of the labor force. Similar protections for private businesses, enshrined in bills like the Paycheck Fairness Act, have stalled in Congress.

This is largely due to Republican opposition to equal pay laws, which they regard as "a political ploy designed to funnel money into the pockets of trial lawyers and to mislead the American people."

But it's a position that may not work out well for the GOP in the future — Politico notes targeting equal pay has rapidly become a highly-effective message for Democrats looking to persuade voters.

"Unlike for just about every other issue within the women’s agenda and beyond, every competitive Democrat is on the same page, and the Republican counter-argument is generally limited to calling the conversation a distraction and the proposed legislative solution unnecessary."

The president's upcoming executive actions mirror steps he took in February to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 an hour.