Equal Pay for Women and Men Still Elusive 8 Years After Lilly Ledbetter Law

Earlier this month, Lilly Ledbetter recalled attending Barack Obama’s first inaugural ball in 2009. It meant a lot to her that former President Barack Obama chose her for his second dance of the night, after granting the first one, naturally, to his wife Michelle.

Nine days later, on January 29, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, as Ledbetter stood by his side. Designed to help prevent wage discrimination based on gender, the law amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to make it easier for victims of wage discrimination like Ledbetter to file equal-pay lawsuits.

This Sunday marks the eighth anniversary of the law, which is both a milestone on the road to equal pay and a reminder of how far the country has to go. Today, women still make only 80 cents for every dollar a man makes.

As we celebrate the anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, it’s important to remember what made it possible. Ledbetter worked for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. for 19 years and retired in 1998. When she found out she had been paid considerably less than her male counterparts despite doing the same work, she sued the company. In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against her on a technicality.

The ruling sparked outrage, and a bill was introduced in Congress to make it easier for victims of wage discrimination to challenge unequal pay. But Senate Republicans defeated the bill in 2008.

That’s why Obama’s election was so important in making this victory possible, and why the new president didn’t wait long to sign the bill into law.

Our society still has a long way to go to achieve fair compensation for women and end to wage discrimination. An important victory was achieved eight years ago, but the country will need future pay-equity warriors to take us the rest of the way.

It remains to be seen which of our current leaders will do the right thing and invite the next Ledbetter to dance.

Source: afscme.org