The power and strength of Southern working class women has been on display at the DNC in the person of Lilly Ledbetter (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0912/80704.html).
I caught Pat Morrison’s interview with Ms. Ledbetter on KPCC today. (www.scpr.org/programs/patt-morrison/) Her comments weren’t significantly different from what she said to the convention:
After nearly two decades of hard, proud work, I found out that I was making significantly less money than the men who were doing the same work as me. I went home, talked to my husband, and we decided to fight.
We decided to fight for our family and to fight for your family too. We sought justice because equal pay for equal work is an American value. That fight took me ten years. It took me all the way to the Supreme Court. And, in a 5–4 decision, they stood on the side of those who shortchanged my pay, my overtime, and my retirement just because I am a woman.
The Supreme Court told me that I should have filed a complaint within six months of the company’s first decision to pay me less even though I didn’t know about it for nearly two decades. And if we hadn’t elected President Barack Obama, the Supreme Court’s wrongheaded interpretation would have been the law of the land.
And that would have been the end of the story. But with President Obama on our side, even though I lost before the Supreme Court, we won. The first bill that President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. I think it says something about his priorities that the first bill he put his name on has my name on it too.
That was the first step but it can’t be the last. Because women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar men make. Those pennies add up to real money. It’s real money for the little things like being able to take your kids to the movies and for the big things like sending them to college. It’s paying your rent this month and paying the mortgage in the future. It’s having savings for the bill you didn’t expect and savings for the dignified retirement you’ve earned.
Maybe 23 cents doesn’t sound like a lot to someone with a Swiss bank account, Cayman Island Investments and an IRA worth tens of millions of dollars. But Governor Romney, when we lose 23 cents every hour, every day, every paycheck, every job, over our entire lives, what we lose can’t just be measured in dollars.
I’ve been on a lot of different sides of shady corporate games including the race and gender discrimination shuffles. Won and lost. Been both principled and compromised. Ms. Ledbetter’s remarks truck me because of their concreteness and specificity.
Ms. Ledbetter was a manager. She only found out how little she was making from an anonymous tip. I like to imagine the tipster as an A/P or A/R avenging angel clerk, determined to ensure that her corner of the world took a step towards righteousness.
We need labor protections because people just aren’t going to do the right thing unbidden. They’re just not. I’m so glad that she was at the convention so people could put a face to a name and hear first hand what hurts.