President Clinton will team up today with Michelle Akers, a midfielder for the World Cup-winning U.S. women's soccer team, to propose spending $27 million for an Equal Pay Initiative, much of it to help the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission pursue cases filed by women seeking pay commensurate with men.
Akers is one of 20 players from the women's national soccer team who declined to play in a tournament this month in Australia because of a contract dispute with the U.S. Soccer Federation. The women want their pay raised to match the amounts paid to men's team members. Negotiations between members of the women's national team and the federation are scheduled for today.
Nationwide, women earn about 75 percent as much as men do for comparable work, a White House official said yesterday. Unlike Akers, most have no recourse to high-profile cases and no outpouring of public support.
As a result, the White House official said, Clinton will present a plan today that would provide $10 million to the EEOC so it could handle wage discrimination cases based on gender, teach businesses how to meet legal requirements, and launch a public education campaign for employers and employees.
That new money was already included in the $322 million EEOC budget request Clinton unveiled last week on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, a White House official said. Clinton said then that the EEOC request would represent a 14 percent increase over last year.
The money would enable the EEOC to train a thousand additional staff members. The agency receives 1,200 gender-based pay discrimination cases a year.
An additional $17 million would go to the Labor Department to train women in nontraditional jobs, such as high technology; fund education programs for employers; and strengthen industry partnerships to help women retain jobs and progress in the work force.
The contract for the women's soccer players expired in July, after their World Cup victory, and the U.S. Soccer Federation asked the players to continue under the 1996 agreement until a new one is reached. The 1996 agreement provided $3,150 a month for the most experienced female players plus about $250 per game. The women have asked for amounts similar to the men's team, or $5,000 per player per month and an additional $2,000 per game for the 18 players selected for the Australia trip.
The entire squad of players that won the 1999 Women's World Cup--including Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, Akers and Briana Scurry--refused to go to Australia.
Congress turned down a similar Clinton request last year to boost money for EEOC's pursuit of pay discrimination against women.