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Warren eyes executive actions to level racial wage disparities among women

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren.
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren. John Locher/Associated Press/Associated Press

Senator Elizabeth Warren on Friday outlined a series of executive actions she’d take “on day one” if elected president to boost wages among women of color, leveraging the federal government’s power to negotiate with its contractors.

“For decades, the government has helped perpetuate the systemic discrimination that has denied women of color equal opportunities. It’s time for the government to try to right those wrongs — and boost our economy,” Warren wrote in a post on the Medium website.

It’s the latest in a series of detailed policy proposals from Warren that have become the hallmark of her presidential campaign and have recently helped boost her poll numbers in a crowded Democratic presidential primary field.

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Though Warren’s wage plan is narrow, affecting only companies that do business with the federal government, she argued the new rules would set an example for the entire private sector. Former President Barack Obama frequently used executive orders for the large number of federal contractors to try to set standards for private employers.

Warren said she’d use an executive order to mandate a $15 minimum wage among federal contractors and ban employment practices that she argues “tilt the playing field against women of color,” such as asking a job applicant for her prior salary or requiring new hires to sign employment agreements that restrict their rights if they leave the company or make a complaint.

Warren also said she’d require federal contractors to disclose information on their employees’ pay and job title, along with demographic data, and stop working with companies with large disparities.

Another executive action would improve the federal government’s own hiring practices to diversify its leadership, creating fellowship programs and stepping up recruitment at historically black colleges and other institutions.

“The share of Latinas in the federal workforce is about half that of the entire workforce. And even though Black women are disproportionately represented in the federal workforce, they are nearly absent from its leadership ranks,” Warren wrote.

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She would also step up enforcement efforts against certain sectors, like the service industry, where Warren argues employees are more vulnerable to abusive employment practices.


Christina Prignano can be reached at christina.prignano@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.