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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.
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