This piece was co-authored by Lily Ledbetter and Joan Blades.
I can't believe I need to write this blog. The 1964 Civil Rights Act made equal pay for equal work the law of the land. For almost 50 years Americans have had the justice system to turn to when they suffer pay discrimination. Last year the Supreme Court upended this law by making it essentially unenforceable. They ruled in a 5 to 4 decision that pay discrimination claims filed under Title Seven must be brought within 180 days of the initial discriminatory pay decision. In other words, they gutted this part of the Civil Rights Act! The vast majority of employees who suffer pay discrimination because of their gender, age, race, or religion have no idea for years. In fact many employers have rules against employees sharing information about their salary.
Soon after this appallingly bad decision last year, the U.S. House voted to pass The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, designed to correct the Supreme Court's new interpretation of the law. I am sorry to report that the Senate did not immediately follow suit. The Fair Pay Act sat and gathered dust. This has not gone unnoticed. The coalition that is fighting for this bill is unusually broad, in addition to MomsRising.org it includes National Senior Citizens Law Center, Color of Change, American Association of People with Disabilities, SEIU, YWCA, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, National Partnership for Women & Families, and dozens of others.
Together, these organizations and their members have written hundreds of letters to the editor, made thousands of calls to our Senators, emailed tens of thousands of constituent letters, and sent nearly fifty thousand petitions signatures, even delivered them in district with constituent meetings.
This week the Senate is scheduled to vote and frankly each and every Senator should be voting to pass this law. I'm glad it is an election year. Any Senator who votes against the simple principal that equal pay for equal work should be enforceable doesn't belong in leadership any more. Sadly, we are struggling to get the 60 votes...to overcome a filibuster.
I am honored to be writing this blog with Lilly Ledbetter, a woman who is working tirelessly for the fair treatment of others -- even now that it is clear that she will not personally benefit from the outcome of this vote.
"I am in Washington this week, going from Senate office to Senate office to build support for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act - legislation that bears my name. I would never have guessed this is what I would be doing at this point in my life!
I'm here because I worked for decades as a supervisor at a Goodyear plant in my home town, Gadsden, Alabama. Toward the end of my career, like lots of women, I began to suspect that I wasn't getting paid as much as men doing the same job. Pay levels were a big secret, though, so it was hard to be sure. But when someone left a note in my mailbox, I knew I was right. I had started at a lower salary than my male colleagues, and gotten smaller raises.
I just couldn't let Goodyear get away with it so I went to court, and a jury agreed that Goodyear had broken the law. They awarded me $3 million. Then a trial judge reduced it to $300,000 because of a statutory cap on civil rights damages that I don't really understand. But I knew that made discrimination a lot less pricey, and painful, for Goodyear.
Then, by one vote, the Supreme Court took that away too, saying that I should have filed my complaint within six months of the original act of discrimination, even though there was no way I could have known about it. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the ruling made no sense in the real world. She was right.
I worked hard at Goodyear, and was good at my job. But with every paycheck, I got less than I deserved and less than the law says I am entitled to. The discrimination continues today, because my pension and Social Security are based on my pay. But because Goodyear kept it a secret, five Justices on the Supreme Court said it didn't matter. It was a step backward, and a terrible decision not just for me but for all the women who may have to fight wage discrimination.
That's why we're asking Congress to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, to give women a chance to fight back and companies a reason to think twice about discriminating. The legislation can't help me - it's too late for that. But it can help my daughters, and yours."
Join us! Our leaders need to hear from the citizens who have elected them that we will not accept dithering on such a basic American value- we all deserve fair pay; and equal pay for equal work.
A Peaceful Revolution is a weekly blog about work/life satisfaction done in collaboration with MomsRising.org. Read a post by a leading thinker in the field every week.