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Clinton aims to end pay bias

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Women earn $3 for every $4 that men earn for the same work, the White House reported Wednesday. President Clinton said it's time to change the fact that women are essentially told to show up every day but get paid for working only three out of four days.

He is supporting legislation introduced by Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., that would give women the right to sue for punitive damages and not just back pay and would require employers with more than 100 workers to report wages by gender.He appeared at a White House event saluting the 35th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, signed by President John Kennedy. With him were Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., Hillary Rodham Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Tipper Gore and a number of women who were present in 1963.

Clinton said that discrimination against women is the major reason for the fact that women earn only 76 cents for every dollar that men earn, although that is up from 70 percent in 1990 and up three cents since the spring of 1997.

Janet Yellen, head of the Council of Economic Advisers, agreed, saying that skills, job characteristics, productivity and other factors have been taken into consideration and that the difference is unexplained except for discrimination.

But she insisted that Clinton is setting a better example than his predecessor, President George Bush. Clinton's 3,000 political appointees include 45 percent women who earn 85 percent as much as the men while Bush's 3,000 included 40 percent women who earned 75 percent as much as men.

Tipper Gore said that it is not right that women have to work three additional months to earn as much as men do and that equalizing pay would improve life for families, not just women.

Dorothy Height, a longtime activist on behalf of women of color who was at the bill signing in 1963, said the pay gap is even higher for minority women, about 68 cents for every dollar. "We have come a long way. We have a long way to go," she said.

Clinton noted that he had been reared by a single working mother because his father died before he was born. "It is ludicrous to say 75 percent is enough. You wouldn't tolerate getting to vote three out of four elections,' he said.

Kitty Higgins, deputy secretary of the Labor Department, said that the White House is optimistic the new legislation will pass because it's not a partisan issue. But the time element is not favorable to legislation this year, and many businesses are likely to oppose new government regulations.