Fighting for Equal Pay
By Michelle Obama on September 15, 2008
BlogHer Original Post
This week, I’m hitting the campaign trail. I’m heading back to Virginia and North Carolina, excited to meet lots of people, hear lots of stories, and share Barack’s plans for bringing the change we need to the country we love.
During the past 19 months, I’ve learned that, at its best, “campaigning” is just another word for “talking with people.” And talking with people is something I truly love to do. That’s why, since the beginning of this campaign, I’ve been hosting roundtable discussions—particularly with two groups of people that America doesn’t hear from enough: working mothers and military spouses.
In these conversations, we all get together around a coffee table and just talk—about our kids, our jobs, our dreams—and the hectic, funny, sometimes frustrating, often rewarding realities of our lives.
I’ll be having two roundtable chats this week—one in Richmond, Virginia, and one in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In Virginia, I’ll have a special guest with me: Lilly Ledbetter.
Perhaps some of you may have never heard her name before—but she is right in the middle of a crucial legislative battle that will have an effect on the lives of millions of American women now and for generations to come.
Lilly is from Alabama. For nearly 20 years, she worked for a Goodyear tire plant. She was the only female supervisor—so you know this is a tough, hard-working woman. One day, someone sent her an anonymous letter with a list of salaries of her co-workers. That’s how she found out that she was making less than the men she worked with—even men who were less senior than she was. And we’re not talking about a few dollars. Some of her male counterparts were making 40 percent more than she was—for doing the same work.
Over 20 years, that adds up to a lot of money—money that could have helped Lilly send her kids to college, provide some comfort in her everyday life, or prepare for her retirement.
So Lilly did the brave and difficult thing. She confronted this injustice. Her case went all the way to the Supreme Court. And in a 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that, according to the law, Lilly only had 180 days to complain about the pay discrimination. So because it had taken her 20 years to find out the truth, she had missed her chance at justice.
Well, some people in Congress decided to change that law, so it would no longer reward employers for hiding discrimination until they ran out the clock. Last July, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passed the House. But this April, Republicans in the Senate blocked it. Now, Democrats in the Senate are working to bring Lilly’s bill back for another vote this fall.
My husband is a proud supporter of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
Senator McCain does not support it. In fact, Senator McCain said that what women really need is more education and training.
But Lilly Ledbetter had plenty of training. What she doesn’t have is the right to fight for the pay she deserves.
Pay equity is a major issue at stake in this election. Today, across the country, women are paid only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns, and minority women are paid even less for equal work. This isn’t only an economic issue. This is a family issue. When women are paid less than men, their kids pay the price.
Pay equity is just one example of how times are tough for American families. Parents are working harder than ever to do it all—raise their kids, pay the bills, help out their parents, and keep up with the rising cost of living. Caring for their families is their greatest joy—but it’s getting harder to make ends meet.
Barack understands this. And he’s committed to restoring the middle class.
Under the Obama economic plan, 95 percent of middle-class families would receive a tax cut. And because so many people are struggling with the rising cost of energy, Barack would provide a $1,000 emergency energy rebate to working families.
Barack would also fight to establish pay equity for women and expand family leave—because today, over 22 million working women don’t have a single paid sick day.
Finding ways to better support America’s families is Barack’s focus, and my passion. When families are healthy, communities thrive. We really are all in this together. We should have government policies that reflect this reality to – as my husband says – make the world as it is and the world as it should be one in the same.
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