Warren targets federal contractors to fight race, gender pay gaps

Warren targets federal contractors to fight race, gender pay gaps

Massachusetts senator: New rules on contractors would mean ‘a big step towards creating equal opportunities for … women of color’

Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren on Friday unveiled a plan that she said would “boost wages for women of color” and set them up better for leadership positions.

If elected president, the Massachusetts senator said she would implement her plan through executive orders on her first day in office. She called for targeting companies with federal contracts, noting that they employ about a quarter of the U.S. workforce. Among the biggest government contractors are defense firms such as Boeing BA, +0.39% and consulting giant Booz Allen Hamilton BAH, +0.70% .

“By imposing new rules on companies that hope to receive federal contracts, we can take a big step towards creating equal opportunities for Black, Latina, Native American, Asian and other women of color,” Warren said in a blog post on Medium.com.

In the first quarter, women had 80.3% of the median pay of men, according to Labor Department data. White men made $1,033 per week, compared to $826 for white women, $709 for black women, $1,017 for Asian women and $631 for Hispanic women.

Among the 25 Democratic presidential hopefuls, Warren has become known for putting forth a range of plans, as she tackles issues such as student debt, child care, affordable housing and the Pentagon’s ethics rules. Her 2020 team has produced a T-shirt and other campaign material emblazoned with “Warren Has A Plan For That.”

Her latest proposal would ban awarding contracts to companies with poor track records on diversity and equal pay, and it will step up disclosure requirements in these areas, she said Friday.

In addition, Warren promised to bar contractors from asking job applicants about their past salaries and criminal histories. Using salary history to make new offers ends up locking women of color into lower wages, the senator said.

She also said her executive order would require the companies extend a $15 minimum wage to all employees, along with benefits such as paid family leave, fair scheduling and collective bargaining rights. “This will have an outsized effect on Black and Brown women, who perform a disproportionate share of lower-wage work,” she wrote.

Warren’s plan would affect federal agencies as well. She said she would improve the agencies “higher-level recruiting process to attract diverse, experienced hires into senior management positions. Her administration also would create new paid fellowships for federal jobs for minority and low-income applicants and aim to attract more entry-level applicants from minority-serving institutions, such as historically black colleges and universities.

The senator also promised crack down on systemic discrimination, saying her Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would “issue first-of-its-kind guidance on enforcing claims involving the intersectional discrimination that women of color face from the interlocking biases of racism and sexism.”

In the latest RealClearPolitics average of polls, Warren has support of 14%, putting her behind former Vice President Joe Biden at 27% and California Sen. Kamala Harris and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 15% each. Two post-debate polls have shown Warren and other Democrats gaining significantly on Biden, but another survey suggested the front-runner still has a real edge on his rivals.

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