April 17th, 2008
05:40 PM ET

The Democrats, Economic Justice and Pay Equality

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Faye Wattleton
President, Center for the Advancement of Women

Forty-four years after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Acts to end pay inequity and 40 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., while in the midst of a campaign seeking equal justice for workers, it’s hard to believe the Supreme Court has violated the spirit of the legislation. But it did in Ledbetter v. Goodyear, which upheld 19 years of blatant workplace discrimination against Lilly Ledbetter. The decision must be overturned, and Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have the best chance this year to push for it.

The Fair Pay Restoration Act (S.1843), passed by the House (H.R.2831) only two months after the Court’s decision, sits stalled in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, on which both senators serve. Their failure even to call for hearings toward moving it out of committee for passage by the Senate is perplexing. While the legislation is languishing in committee purgatory, the Chimp Haven is Home Act (S.1916) has been quickly signed into law by President Bush. The first woman and the first African-American presidential candidate in U.S. history should know better.

The presidential hopefuls are attempting to convince Pennsylvanians that they will stem job losses due to trade agreements. They could engage in the kind of unified effort for change that they both promote and simply press for a vote to end discrimination that prevents women from receiving fair treatment at the workplace.

Discrimination against women starts the first year after college graduation, according to a report by the American Association of University Women. Ten years after graduation, college-educated men have more authority and supervisory roles than female counterparts. The gap only widens with every paycheck, over a career, making it impossible for women to catch up. Women often ignore they’re being discriminated against, as employees rarely discuss earnings with one another. For Ms. Ledbetter, it took 19 years.

“You can't expect people to go around asking their coworkers how much money they're making. At a lot of places, that could get you fired. And nobody wants to be asked those kinds of questions anyway,” she said during her testimony before the HELP Committee in January.

Research by the Center for the Advancement of Women revealed that 90 percent of women rank equal pay for equal work as a top concern, second only to domestic violence and sexual assault.

The Pennsylvania primary will be held on April 22. It is also Equal Pay Day.


Filed under: Democrats • Economy • Women's Rights
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. ML

    women go through a lot of discrimination in work place. I went that way, it was hard. Women are discriminated by lower pay, and other forms ( be it sexual, sexist, motherhood...), they are cut short for having children and having the need to stay at home when sick.
    Women should have the possibility to leave sooner, so they can be with kids, they should be allowed to have some time to be at home when kids are sick – not everyone can afford a nanny in these cases.
    I had to quit my good job because I had baby and my immediate boss ( woman-childless and not understanding) put me through a hell. I only needed to be able to leave at 5pm, I was asked to come later – at 10am and leave at 6-7pm! I talked to human relations, and would of have a case, but I did not have any energy to go this way. So, now I work from home and it is better.
    Also the maternity leave is way too short for women, the most important years in child development are the very first 2 years. It is heart breaking to leave babies few weeks old in day care.

    April 21, 2008 at 5:39 pm |
  2. Niliad

    Hillary has worked all her life for equality of womens rights. I remember a sppech when she mentioned that "Womens rights are equal rights and equal rights are women's rights" She has take much bashing because of her fight for equality not only among women but also civil rights. My Prayers are with this woman who has the passion to keep going with true convictions for a better USA. I know many put her down but look into her life, she has brought us so much as a first lady, she tried to so hard on healthcare but the senate did not let her truimph on this, yet she took the fall for it..However continued on to move forward. Her faith is very strong and I think thats what helps her to keep going. It's really unfortunate that much energy has been spent by the media to manipulate and destroy this lady. I think many should really look more into the Who Hillary is and compare on who Obama is...I think people would be amazed that there is much difference and I can say that its not the betterment of our country to even think Obama can be compare to Hillary's accomplishments, knowledge. If Obama should win the nomination Americans will be getting the short end of the stick.

    April 19, 2008 at 1:55 am |
  3. PatHilton

    It's shame that in this day and age women are still underpaid for the job they do compaired to their counterparts. Women still only make about .79 cents to every dollar that a man makes. Even with a college education women still lag behind men in promotions and pay. It wasn't until Aug 18, 1920 that the 19th Amendment was ratified. The ERA was proposed in 1923 and still to this day lacks becoming the 28th Amendment because it has not been ratified by all of the states in this great union. I sometimes think I'll never see in this country women treated equally or with the same privileges as men.

    Pat Hilton

    April 17, 2008 at 11:50 pm |
  4. Annie Kate

    When I was working discussing your pay and getting caught would cost you your job. However, we usually found out and the pay between men and women where I worked was basically the same for the type of position and the amount of experience one had. In a few cases I made more than my counterparts who had more experience than I did. So there are some companies who do pay women equally with men. I feel very fortunate to have worked for them.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 17, 2008 at 9:58 pm |
  5. Fay, CA

    There is no justification for women earning less than men in this day and age. I'm disappointed that neither Obama or Clinton have taken steps to help get the ball rolling on The Fair Pay Restoration Act–it would be a positive move for both of them who now appear to be stuck in endless and tiresome bickering.

    April 17, 2008 at 7:08 pm |

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