Friday, September 28, 2012

Part Three - Enactment of Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

[Lilly M. Ledbetter]

Part Three: Why I Plan to Vote Democratic

This is the third in a series of blogs on my intent to vote not only for President Obama, but a straight Democratic ticket at the national, state, and local levels. I plan to look at issues that are important to me and I believe important to the American people.

I welcome your responses, whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or something else. I will publish whatever comments you have unless they are mean-spirited or do not speak directly to the issue addressed in this particular blog.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first piece of legislation signed into law President Barack Obama on January 30, 2009. If you don’t recall the circumstances that brought this legislation into being, take a look at this brief summary:
Lilly M. Ledbetter discovered when she was nearing retirement that her male colleagues were earning much more than she was. A jury found her employer, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company plant in Gadsden, Ala., guilty of pay discrimination, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
But in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court threw out the case, ruling that she should have filed her suit within 180 days of the date that Goodyear first paid her less than her peers. The narrow majority rejected the argument that each subsequent discriminatory paycheck was a new violation of the law.
Courts around the country cited the decision hundreds of times as a reason for rejecting lawsuits claiming discrimination based on race, sex, age and disability, without regard to the underlying merits of the individual cases.
On Jan. 29, 2009, President Barack Obama affixed his signature to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, his first official bill as president. The legislation expanded workers’ rights to sue in this kind of case, and relaxed the statute of limitations, restarting the six-month clock every time the worker receives a paycheck.
In view of all the “large” issues at stake in this election, is this expansion of workers’ right to sue worthy of inclusion. Without getting into women’s health issues (that I will get to in a later piece in this series), I think this is a critical issue that lays bare differences between Republicans and Democrats.

When he signed the bill, President Obama made clear its significance:
“It is fitting that with the very first bill I sign — the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — we are upholding one of this nation’s first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness,” the president said.
There is no way this is a “small” or inconsequential issue, but Republicans treated it so. Before Obama was elected, Congress tried to pass a similar law that would have overturned the Supreme Court ruling while President George W. Bush was still in office. He opposed it as did Republicans in Congress, arguing that such a bill would encourage lawsuits. In 2009, President Obama and Congressional Democrats with a handful of Republicans got the bill passed.

That’s not all. In June of 2012, a bill that would have built on the 2009 Ledbetter legislation failed to clear a procedural hurdle in the Senate, as Republicans united against the measure. The new bill, the Paycheck Fairness Act, barred companies from retaliating against workers who inquire about pay disparities and open pathways for female employees to sue for punitive damages in cases of paycheck discrimination.  The same bill failed a procedure vote in the Senate when no Republican supported it.

I have to ask this question again. Did Republicans oppose these legislative attempts because President Obama supported them or because they were opposed to women having the means to oppose wage discrimination? Since Republicans opposed the bill in 2007 before Obama was elected, I assume it was because they didn’t believe in the legislation. Do they seriously wonder why women’s support for Obama is in the double digits?

 If I hadn't supported the two bills (the one that passed in 2009 and the one that hasn’t passed yet) I couldn't look my wife and daughters in the eye. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is change I can believe in, and it is one of the reasons I plan to vote Democratic. What do you think?

- Milo

No comments: