Get on the Right Side of History
Posted by espressodog on July 22, 2010
“Be on the right side of history,” urged Vice President Joe Biden as he called on the Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act at the White House Middle Class Task Force event on Tuesday, July 20th. BPW Foundation was honored to be in the packed room of activists to hear administration official after administration official stress the importance of equal pay enforcement and strong work-family policies.
The rousing call to action on one of BPW Foundation’s top legislative priorities was very encouraging. BPW Foundation has been advocating for the Paycheck Fairness Act for over a decade. In fact we testified in support of this bill back in March. The bill will update and strengthen the 46-year-old Equal Pay Act, closing loop holes and improving the law’s effectiveness. Calling for Senate passage of the legislation, Vice President Biden said bluntly:
“I say to all those, those few Democrats and all those Republicans who at least thus far have said no, or said nothing: This is your chance, and I mean this sincerely, to get on the right side of history…Step up, man. Step up and change the law.”
During the event, the Administration announced recommendations from the Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force which President Obama pledged to create in his State of the Union address. Although a number of laws exist to address equal pay enforcement, the Task Force has identified five persistent challenges and made recommendations to address each challenge along with an action plan to implement those recommendations. The 5th recommendation is passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act!
Vice President Biden framed pay equity in economic terms. “Closing the gender pay gap, helping parents keep their jobs while balancing family responsibilities, and increasing workplace flexibility – these are not only women’s issues, they are issues of middle class economic security.”
“We cannot do this work alone. So today, I thank the House for its work on this issue and encourage the Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, a common-sense bill that will help ensure that men and women who do equal work receive the equal pay that they and their families deserve. Passing this bill is one of the Task Force’s key recommendations, and I hope Congress will act swiftly so that I can sign it into law.”
The Forum was not just about pay equity, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis made several work-life balance related announcements including the Department of Labor’s plans to follow up on the Forum on Workplace Flexibility that BPW CEO Deborah L Frett attended this spring. The Women’s Bureau will host four high-profile events in Dallas, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York with employers, advocates, unions, government officials and other key stakeholders. The Labor Department will also launch new public education efforts, including an Equal Pay Checklist, a revamping of the Equal Pay Employer Self-Audit tool, and hosting an Equal Pay Research Summit. To address issues related to work/family balance, the Labor Department will conduct a new Family and Medical Leave Act survey in 2011. The survey will provide needed insights into how families use leave. The data collection will be designed to gather more information on parental leave, child care responsibilities, family leave insurance program usage, and other issues related to the intersection of work and family responsibilities.
Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President and Chair of the Council on Women and Girls used the forum to announce the White House’s launch of a Work-Flex Event Starter Kit to encourage greater dialogue around workplace flexibility at the community level and bring people together to start making changes.
Lilly Ledbetter, the namesake of the first bill signed by President Obama, introduced the Vice President and stole the show. Although many in the room had heard her story before she reminded them that even though she won her battle, the fight is not over and many of the provisions in the Paycheck Fairness Act would have helped her.
Top administration officials joining the Vice President at the event included Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes, and Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Jacqueline Berrien.