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President Obama Takes Executive Action for Equal Pay: Now It's Time for Congress to Do Its Part

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9to5 applauds President Obama's two executive actions aimed at ending pay discrimination against women and people of color. The president is expected to sign the executive orders during an event at the White House on April 8 for Equal Pay Day, a day which women's rights advocates recognize as how far a woman must work into 2014 to earn the same as a man did in 2013 alone.

When women do well, our families, communities and local businesses do well. These steps by the president are important to combat gender pay discrimination, and to ensure that women and families have the money we need to make ends meet and contribute to the economy by maintaining basic spending levels on food, rent, repairs and other necessities.

President Obama will sign an executive order banning retaliation against employees of federal contractors who disclose or inquire about their wages. This is a huge victory for the one in five American workers who are employed by companies doing business with the federal government.

Basic information about pay is critical for working women and people of color to know if we are being paid fairly so we can take action if we're not. Ask Amber from Colorado, who worked as an associate at a small law firm where she could not talk about compensation. She later found out that the only other associate, a man, made twice what she made.

The president will also instruct the Department of Labor to establish new regulations requiring federal contractors to submit data on employee compensation. This information will encourage employers to comply with existing equal pay laws, and assist with more focused enforcement of the law in firms paid with taxpayer funds.

With these executive actions, the president is fulfilling his State of the Union promise to take action where he can to support women and families, and build an economy that works for all of us.

Now it's time for Congress to do its part and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. This Act will strengthen existing equal pay laws and protect all workers from retaliation when they share wage information. The Senate is expected to vote to open debate on the Paycheck Fairness Act as soon as Tuesday.

In 2014, women still earn, on average, just 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, and women of color earn even less. That means less money for families today and less money for a secure retirement tomorrow.

Other solutions are also needed. Women comprise two-thirds of workers earning minimum wage or below. Raising the minimum wage would mean more economic security for working women and the families we support. Legislative proposals that would allow workers to earn paid sick days and family and medical leave are especially important for women, who make up the vast majority of family caregivers. These policies would ensure that we don't have to risk our paychecks or our jobs to welcome a new baby or take care of an ill family member or our own health.

There are many common-sense steps we can take to achieve economic security for women and families. Congress needs to follow the president's lead and take action to end gender pay discrimination now. Passing the Paycheck Fairness Act would be a good start.