President Obama has a new initiative to improve fair pay, but not everyone agrees with his approach. Obama announced the proposal last month on the anniversary of the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill he ever signed into law.
After listing it in his proposals for 2016 during his final State of the Union address, the President released details for his plan. According to the White House Fact Sheet, the proposal mostly consists of using the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to collect additional salary data from businesses with more than 100 employees.
Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) penned an op-ed in the Washington Examiner responding to the initiative, arguing that it will not close the pay gay, but instead cause “administrative burdens” for businesses. She writes:
The administration claims that this burden on businesses will be minimal. We've heard that assurance before, and it rings hollow. The collection and transmission of this information will cost time and resources. Rather than focusing precious capital on growing business and creating jobs, employers will be forced to spend time complying with more federal mandates.
The first term senator acknowledged that more work needs to be done to achieve pay equality, but took a positive spin on the issue. She made sure to include a list of successes for women in the workforce:
We now hold more than half of all professional and managerial jobs, which is double the number of these jobs that were occupied by women in 1980. We earn over 55 percent of all bachelor's degrees obtained in the United States, run nearly 10 million small businesses, and serve in Congress at record levels.
In her piece, Fischer suggested Obama's plans will decrease flexibility for women instead of empowering them. She further argues that big data dumps won't detail an employee's whole story such as education level, experience, and work history.
But Fischer doesn't just harp on the downsides of the bill, she also offers an alternative, bipartisan, option: her own bill. The Workplace Advancement Act (SB-2200) would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 so that employers cannot retaliate against any employee who shares their salary information.
Fisher, along with other Republican women senators who co-sponsored the bill, wants to increase voluntary discussion about wages, which they hope will, in turn, pressure businesses into fairer pay. The same tenet has been included in the Paycheck Fairness Act authored by Democrats and blocked multiple times by Republicans
Based on this legislation, Democrats support criminalizing employer retaliation, but according to the Huffington Post they will still not support Fischer's bill. Democrats claim the bill strips back essentials steps toward equal pay.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) called for a more comprehensive solution:
“I think it would be great news if Republicans were finally willing to listen to working families and join Democrats to make sure women get pay equity. But Republicans will need to put real solutions on the table — and so far, they are unfortunately falling short.”
Even so, Fischer's bill may put Democrats in a difficult position by forcing their hand on an issue that continues to define the liberal agenda, especially during a presidential primary.