Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Convention Watch! Lilly Ledbetter's speech

Just watched Lilly Ledbetter's speech. I'm glad she got a chance to tell her story on this stage. Those of us who are a part of MomsRising.org know it well-- as a Goodyear tire manager, she spent 19 years making less than her male counterparts for the same job, at which her performance was praised.

The Supreme Court denied her back pay (though it was awarded by lower courts), saying that she should have filed suit 180 days after the first instance of discrimination. But at Goodyear, like at many companies, it's against company policy to discuss wages. And who would ask that of new coworkers in the first six months on the job anyway?

Lilly mentioned that her case was filed on behalf of everyday working people who face this inequality all the time. For women and people of color, unequal pay is almost a given. Congress had a chance to right this wrong with the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Unlike the weak rhetoric against the Act claimed, it would NOT increase frivolous lawsuits (that's the same tired argument that gets rolled out all the time against legislation that helps consumers and working people). It only reinstates the same rights we had under the Civil Rights Act of 1964-- you wouldn't have to find out about discriminatory pay after only 6 months at a new job!

Lilly keeps up the fight- and so should we. When the Fair Pay Act comes around again, let's make sure that every Congressperson hears from us. Including the ones who abstained from the vote the first time around, including the ones who voted against it.

As a family woman (Lilly's a grandmother), Lilly knows all the needed expenses that extra income (that she earned but did not receive) could have gone to. Any of us who have faced wage discrimination and are caregivers know-- there are health care expenses, groceries, gas, and all the necessary expenditures that go into that little job of raising the next generation.

I wonder how her message will be integrated into the two candidates' platforms.