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Why We Vote: Thank You Lilly Ledbetter – Equal Pay Act Signed into Law

Why We Vote: Thank You Lilly Ledbetter – Equal Pay Act Signed into Law

NOTE: This election will be decided on turnout.  We’ll be running posts from the past three and a half years to remind ourselves why we really do need to vote – and get our friends out too!  Lilly Ledbetter speaks at the convention tonight (Tuesday) so we start with her.

When Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law this morning–technically his second piece of legislation signed as president–he, with congress, removed the ridiculous legal obstacles for women seeking equal pay in the workplace. Though Ledbetter was certainly not alone in fighting for workplace gender equality, her struggle in doing so is notable and worthy of our thanks.

Lilly Ledbetter, 70, worked as a manager in a Alabama tire manufacturing plant for many years when, with the assistance of a coworker, she discovered the scope of the discrimination based solely on her gender. An Alabama jury agreed with her complaint; however, her efforts to recover restitution were frustrated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007.

The 5-4 split decision of the Supreme Court was contingent on a technicality in the law pertaining to a 180 day statute of limitations for filing suit over pay discrimination. Technically, Ledbetter would have had to file a complaint within 180 days of the first incident. Justices opposed to her case decided to follow a strict interpretation of the existing law despite the highly unlikely probability of discovering the wrongdoing within such a short period of time.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, author of the Court’s dissent, placed the blame squarely upon the deep-seated nature of gender inequality in American society. Speaking on behalf of the four dissenting judges, Ginsburg said, “In our view, the court does not comprehend, or is indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination …” The House of Representatives agreed, but efforts to change the law were quashed by Senate Republicans last April.

The signing of today’s Fair Pay Act was long overdue, but welcome. Though passing the act represents progress, it is but a tool in combating discrimination, not just for women but for all who have and will face unfair treatment in the workplace and elsewhere. As President Obama put it at the signing ceremony:

Ultimately, equal pay isn’t just an economic issue for millions of Americans and their families, it’s a question of who we are — and whether we’re truly living up to our fundamental ideals; whether we’ll do our part, as generations before us, to ensure those words put on paper some 200 years ago really mean something–to breathe new life into them with a more enlightened understanding that is appropriate for our time.

That is what Lilly Ledbetter challenged us to do.

So thanks to you, Lilly.  You have helped to provide an example of our government working properly, and that’s something we can’t get enough of these days.  The legislation that bears your name is a testament to your struggle as well as many, many others who have fought discrimination in all its forms.

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141 comments

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6:43PM PDT on Sep 11, 2012

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is therefore a correction of an injustice that doesn’t exist that creates a new injustice in the process – a crafty plaintiff can now wait (as Lilly Ledbetter did) until adverse witnesses are dead to file a complaint, weakening employers’ ability to defend themselves against frivolous suits. The enactment of this bill demonstrates Democrats’ commitment to politics over rational government and provides a good argument against keeping them in power.

BS

2:16PM PDT on Sep 11, 2012

Do you really think our vote counts? This is nuts, we have equal pay now, and we are in the "what" century?

11:37AM PDT on Sep 11, 2012

It appears from her case file that Lilly Ledbetter knew of the disparity in her pay back in 1992 and had ample opportunity to bring a timely action, and that the Supreme Court opinion denying her claim left the door open for plaintiffs who had not known of the act of discrimination at the time it occurred – a situation that manifestly did not apply to Lilly Ledbetter.

http://www.care2.com/news/member/605579978/3450311

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is therefore a correction of an injustice that doesn’t exist that creates a new injustice in the process – a crafty plaintiff can now wait (as Lilly Ledbetter did) until adverse witnesses are dead to file a complaint, weakening employers’ ability to defend themselves against frivolous suits. The enactment of this bill demonstrates Democrats’ commitment to politics over rational government and provides a good argument against keeping them in power.

5:29PM PDT on Sep 7, 2012

Great job. Ann

3:05PM PDT on Sep 5, 2012

ty

2:08PM PDT on Sep 5, 2012

Thanks

1:36PM PDT on Sep 5, 2012

Typically, business owners LOVE being able to pay women less than men.

And who wants to own our government? BUSINESS...they've got corporate PERSONHOOD.

1:31PM PDT on Sep 5, 2012

Joseph B you are right on! Also I must say, how can anyone be opposed to the equal pay act??? Whoever is, is the same kind of person who was against FDR's New Deal, unemployment insurance, the minimum wage, unions and all the hallmarks of how this country used to be more supportive of the middle class.

10:22AM PDT on Sep 5, 2012

Sarah why don't you ask Alan Greenspan and George Bush where the jobs are?

Greenspan Grilling **

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFdhGJEEwLI&feature=related

Alan Greenspan Educated by Bernie Sanders '03 *****

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPh-qGcYruw&feature=related

Greenspan admits he made a mistake

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwpnH_OTZio

Alan Greenspan says "Trickle Down" Reaganomics failed **

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GQecQ06xus&feature=related

8:57AM PDT on Sep 5, 2012

Lilly was such a treat last night at the DNC! How proud I am of these strong women who are such a part of the DNC! The RNC was scraping the bottom of the barrel for any women speakers. gee, why am I NOT surprised!

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