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Stop Saying You Support Equal Pay

We just learned that in 2016, women overall working full time, year round in the United States were paid, yet again, a paltry 80 cents for every dollar paid to a man. And the news gets even more disturbing when we break that overall number down by race. In 2016, Black women were paid 63 cents and Latina women 54 cents for every dollar paid to a white, non-Hispanic man.

What’s crazy is that despite significant advances in the number of women earning higher degrees and participating in the labor force, these deeply unfair wage gap numbers have barely budged in a decade. A. Decade.

Year after year after year, the wage gap continues to devastate women, and the families that many of them support, unjustly depriving them of the income needed to feed their families, pay the rent, or pay off their student loans.

What really gets me is that we were primed to finally make some progress in closing the wage gap. In 2016, the Obama Administration announced that, starting in March 2018, large companies would be required to confidentially report to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) information about what they pay their employees broken down by job category, sex, race, and ethnicity. This equal pay data collection was set to be profoundly important to the fight for equal pay. A significant reason pay discrimination remains an intractable problem over 50 years after it was outlawed by Title VII and the Equal Pay Act, is the intense secrecy around pay in American workplaces, with many workplaces outright prohibiting employees from discussing their pay. Pay secrecy allows pay discrimination to go undetected and unchallenged — as Lilly Ledbetter’s case so strikingly illustrated.

The EEOC’s pay data collection was primed to bring much needed sanitizing light to pay practices, allowing the EEOC to see which employers have significant racial or gender pay gaps and investigate pay discrimination more efficiently while also encouraging employers to self-audit their payrolls and proactively take steps to close unjustified pay gaps. As revolutionary as this pay data collection would be for women working in the United States, it was not a burdensome sea change for employers who already provide employee demographic data to the EEOC and collect employee pay data via W-2s.

But then Trump happened. Two weeks ago, the Trump Administration announced that it is blocking the EEOC pay data collection. And Ivanka Trump, who has frequently spoken up about the importance of equal pay and working to close the wage gap, supported this decision, saying that while “[she] believe[s] the intention was good” and “pay transparency is important,” she felt “the proposed policy would not yield the intended results.”

As Senior Counsel for State Policy at NWLC, I have heard that line from business lobbyists and politicians more times than I can count. “We fully support equal pay, but this bill requiring us to stop doing the exact things that lead to unequal pay — we just can’t do that”

DO NOT tell me you support equal pay and then kill the thoroughly researched and vetted initiative developed to close the wage gap.

As a business owner or politician (or anyone really), you can’t say you fully support equal pay and then just hope that if you shut your eyes and believe it hard enough it will happen. You have to actually do something and that means first looking at what people are being paid to make sure they are being paid equitably.

If you say you support equal pay, but in the same breath are trying to keep pay hidden from scrutiny, you DO NOT support equal pay. What you are really saying is that you care more about corporations being able to discount women, and especially women of color, to maximize their profits than you care about women and families struggling to make ends meet.

The Trump Administration has tasked the EEOC — an independent government agency — with “reviewing” the pay data policy and now Trump is trying to fill the EEOC with his friends. Trump recently nominated Janet Dhillon to serve as EEOC Chair and Daniel Gade to serve as one of the EEOC Commissioners. Both have records that raise significant concerns about their commitment to ensuring equal employment opportunity—the sole mission of the EEOC. Dhillon and Gade will have their Senate confirmation hearings next week. They should not be confirmed unless they commit to supporting a pay data collection.

The EEOC, the Administration, and Members of Congress need to understand that supporting equal pay means supporting pay data collection. Otherwise, stop saying you support equal pay.

It's time for change, and we must act now. Time's up.