Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fair Pay Act Blocked by Senate Republicans

Just in from the NYT, some really bad news:
Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked a measure intended to overturn a Supreme Court decision limiting pay discrimination suits ...

By a vote of 56 to 42, the Senate fell four votes short of the 60 required to begin consideration of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, named for an Alabama woman who lost a case against the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company when the court found she not did file her complaint in time. Ms. Ledbetter had been paid as much as 40 percent less than her male counterparts doing the same job, according to her allies.

Note that Ms. Ledbetter also did not know of the discrimination against her "in time." This ruling effectively makes it impossible for women to sue companies for discriminatory pay unless, of course, the company decides to inform them of the crime in a timely manner.

While Senators Clinton and Obama both flew-in from campaigning to vote in favor of the Fair Pay Restoration Act, McCain "skipped the vote but told reporters he would have opposed the bill since it could contribute to frivolous lawsuits harmful to businesses."

Other Republicans cited similar reasons for their opposition. As CNN notes:

The bill that stalled Wednesday would have reset the clock with every paycheck, with supporters arguing that each paycheck was a discriminatory act. But Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, said the bill would allow retirees drawing pensions to sue their old companies over allegations of discrimination that happened decades ago.

Get that? They are worried that a flood of little old ladies will attack the helpless companies that robbed them so long ago that it should just be water under the bridge at this point. And if the company doesn't decide to tell female employees that they are getting screwed out of the pay they deserve within the six month time frame, well... what can we do? We don't want to inconvenience the bigots - those women should have known. Perhaps all women could just hire private investigators to make sure they aren't victims of discrimination - that would be so much more practical. Or we could just accept that our government has declared that our time simply isn't worth as much as a man's.

For more outrage, visit the Female Impersonators. For more notes on what this means for women, click here.

UPDATE: One of the best posts I've read about this horrendous vote can be found on Black Women Vote!. Go read all of it, but here is a little taste:

Payroll executives know the real truth. I could see exactly what everybody earned: from the CEO's million dollar bonus check all the way down to the front desk receptionist's 3 cent raise.

But the real shocker for me was the differential in wages for people who had the same job. At the tender age of 24, I learned that women were getting seriously financially stiffed ACROSS THE BOARD. It didn't matter if the women were attorneys or if they were customer service representatives. Women, FLAT OUT, made much less money than men did, even when their job titles were the same...

And this old fool [McCain] doesn't think that women should have the ability to demand that the government enforce the law -- by saying that 'there would be too many lawsuits', he basically says that wholesale financial abuse of women is just fine and dandy with him.

Yeah, that's what I heard too.


Agincourt said...

Great post Pobre! I am always amazed that this isn't constantly a point that women are addressing. It DOES run across the gamut. And it is a very basic issue. And it should be a unifying issue.

Every woman has encountered, or will encounter this issue at one point in their lives the way things are now.

La Pobre Habladora said...

Many women won't even know that they've encountered this issue - that's what this decision assures.

I remember discussing the salary of my first corporate job with male friends, right after college. These friends had not graduated with honors, nor did they have double majors, nor did their first jobs have the diversity of responsibilities that mine did. Yet, at the time I just thought, wow - they really found good companies, I guess. I assumed that everyone doing an entry-level job at the company where I worked was making about the same amount as I was. After reading the statistics, that attitude sure seems naive.

This type of support of secrecy (which has been the defining characteristic of the Bush administration) should feel personal - it IS affecting us.

Dee said...

I am not an American but I hope this issue is used strongly to vote out that big business Republican party.

La Pobre Habladora said...

Yeah, me too!

PatK said...

I am old enough to have been working when women first started banding together to address issues such as opportunity and equal pay for equal work. I have read the posts and some other articles concerning Lilly Ledbetter but I do not seen anyone addressing the continuing effect the pay discrimination has on her life. First, if she has a pension from Goodyear it is reasonable to assume that her salary was in the calculation of that pension and that the pension is not equal to that of her male peers. Second, if she had a 401(k) both her contribution and Goodyear's were affected by the lower pay which reduces her income today. Third, if there was group life insurance it was pay based and she is insured for a lower amount than her male peers. The pay might even affect social security amount. Therefore, there is not an incident of pay discrimination it is a continuing and present problem of discrimination in her life and the lives of too many women.

McCain says that passage of the bill would result in lawsuits; however, this can only occur if pay discrimination existed. What's his problem? Perhaps he has insufficient experience in a land that aspires to liberty and justice for all. He leads an insulated life with his income and that of his spouse. He might wish to talk with Dennis Quaid who testified before Congress: "Like many Americans, I believed that a big problem in our country was frivolous lawsuits. But now I know that the courts are often the only path to justice." That assumes that the laws are written to provide equal justice but in Lilly Ledbetter's case we have proof that they are not necessarily written that way.

La Pobre Habladora said...

Thanks, PatK - that is really well put, and points out a ton of way in which the 'past the statute of limitations' argument is hooey. The impacts of these discriminatory pay decisions span lifetimes.