Thursday, January 29, 2009

Lilly Ledbetter - A Heroine

Who's Lilly Ledbetter, you might ask. Well, if you're a woman or have daughters, you owe her a lot - whether you know it or not. Today was her day. Today the President signed his first bill, and it was named after her.

In 1979, Lilly, now 70, went to work at Goodyear Tire in Gadsden Alabama and worked there for 20 years, where she was an area manager. As she was close to retirement, someone - she still doesn't know who - slipped her a piece of paper showing the pay scales for other area managers. She was totally shocked. She was the lowest paid, despite her years of experience and an excellent work record. The others, paid as much as 40% more, were all men.

She had heard sexist remarks throughout her career and knew there was sexual discrimination, but she had no idea how bad it was. She immediately filed a suit with the EEOC. Can you imagine the courage that took?

A jury found her employer very guilty of sex discrimination - it was blatant and not debatable - and awarded her back pay and punitive damages. Of course, Goodyear appealed.

After 10 years, in 2007, the case landed before the Supreme Court, who ruled 5-4 against her. But you will not believe why. There was no question that sex discrimination occurred. BUT according to 5 MEN on the Court, the law says you have to file a suit within 180 days of when the FIRST discrimination occurred. Not when it was discovered, as every person in the world except these 5 men believed. Unbelievable! Sandra Day O'Connor, where were you when we needed you? Replaced unfortunately by sexist, unfeeling Alito and his buddy Roberts. Thank you, George W Bush for your final screwing of women.

Think back to any of your jobs. Did you know how much all your coworkers were being paid after 180 days? Of course not. So how exactly are you supposed to know that you were discriminated against? Not to mention proving it. What this ruling meant was that, although it was theoretically against the law to discriminate, if an employer could hide it for 6 months - which is pretty damned easy - nothing could ever be done about it.

Finally, Lilly caught a break. This decision came in an election year, and people were incensed and angry - which means that politicians pay attention. So the 2007 Lilly Ledbetter Act was introduced to counteract what the Supremes did. Although it passed the Democrat controlled house with a handful of Republican voters, it was killed in the Senate by a Republican filibuster - a cloture vote (to stop debate) which required 60 votes came up 3 votes short.

Senator McCain, who was too busy campaigning to show up for the vote, issued a statement against the bill. When Lilly, a Republican, read what McCain said, she immediately volunteered to work for Obama. And we know what a hard worker she is. Her husband, who died in December, voted for a Democrat for President for the first time in his life.

Today, Lilly got her reward. The bill passed both houses of Congress and was signed by the President. She was right there with him, and he gave her the pen - and Michelle gave a lunch in her honor. By the way, the bill will not do a thing for Lilly - her case is over forever. She fought this issue for the women who come behind her.

McCain? Hasn't learned a thing. He was still against it, along with all but one of his male Republican Senators. All female Republican Senators voted for it.

Lilly, on behalf of my daughter, my granddaughters, and all future generations of women, I thank you. Oh, and by the way, a Goodyear tire will never be on a car of mine.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I too was pleased when I heard the news the bill had passed. This is monumental and long overdue.