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Democrats push Equal Pay Day in early campaign effort

The Paycheck Fairness Act that is up for vote in the Senate this week, will prohibit federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their salaries with one another and set new rules for how contractors report their employee pay based on sex and race.

By
Gabrielle Levy
Equal pay activist Lilly Ledbetter makes a compliment to President Barack Obama during her remarks before Obama signed two executive orders regarding equal pay for women at an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on April 8, 2014. Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, and the U.S. Senate will debate the Paycheck Fairness Act tomorrow. UPI/Pat Benic
Equal pay activist Lilly Ledbetter makes a compliment to President Barack Obama during her remarks before Obama signed two executive orders regarding equal pay for women at an event in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on April 8, 2014. Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, and the U.S. Senate will debate the Paycheck Fairness Act tomorrow. UPI/Pat Benic | License Photo

WASHINGTON, April 8 (UPI) -- Democrats in Washington launched an all-out push Tuesday, led by a pair of executive orders signed by President Barack Obama, in an effort to close the lingering wage gap between men and women.

Touting the effort as "National Equal Pay Day," Democrats hope that the highly visible move will help turn up enthusiasm among women and boost turnout in November's primary elections.

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Flanked by women members of the Democratic Congressional Caucus, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Obama dared Republicans to "prove me wrong."

"Pay discrimination is not a myth, it's math," he said.

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The orders, each hailed as mini versions of the Paycheck Fairness Act that is up for vote in the Senate this week, will prohibit federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their salaries with one another and set new rules for how contractors report their employee pay based on sex and race.

Also present was Lilly Ledbetter, the namesake of the very first legislation signed by a newly minted President Obama and the victim of wage discrimination.

"All I could think about was how much my family had done without," she said, talking about her two decades at Goodyear earning much less than her male colleagues. "When the Supreme Court in 2007 ruled that Goodyear had been paying me unfairly long enough to make it legal, I know I wasn't ready to quit the fight."

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The Paycheck Fairness Act, which was sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and co-sponsored by 52 Senators, has failed twice before in the Senate and lacks any Republican co-sponsors, making it vulnerable to a filibuster.

Studies vary on the size of the wage gap, saying woman earn from 77 to 84 cents on the dollar compared to men with equivalent experience.

Democrats are hoping the bolder tack targeting women will help them this fall, through a combination of higher turnout and hoping that Republican candidates will give a repeat performance of their 2012 "legitimate rape"-type unforced errors.

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But the GOP says the so-called "war on women" is a campaign slogan, not a reality. The Republican National Committee circulated a letter that said the Paycheck Fairness Act was overkill: that it is already illegal to discriminate based on gender.

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