Senate Republicans: You Just Hold On There, Little Ladies

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You remember Lilly Ledbetter? She’s the Dred Scott of women’s rights.

So the Supreme Court decided she was entitled to not a damned thing because of their bizarre interpretation of the 180-day deadline for filing discrimination claims under Title VII. Specifically, according to the Court, the 180 day clock starts ticking on day one of the company’s discriminatory raises, and that day, the very day discrimination started, is immovable. After 180 days, the company gets to call out “Olie Olie in come free!” For keepsies! Persistence of unfair paychecks doesn’t extend the clock. So for anti-discrimination to be meaningful, a woman would have to ask the nice folks in HR to tell her how her compensation compares to others in the firm. Uh huh.

The decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear  was 5-4. Samuel Alito delivered the majority opinion, which makes him the Roger Taney of women’s rights, I guess.

Yesterday the Senate had the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007 (H.R. 2831) on its calendar, which the House has passed. This modest but significant bill would re-establish the obviously fair standard that the deadline for making a charge of discrimination runs from when a worker receives unequal pay, not from the day a company first decided to discriminate.

So who, aside from I’m-All-Right-Jack-Screw-You-All capitalists, would oppose this? Why, George W. Bush, of course, which makes him the James Buchanan of women’s rights, I also would guess.

As the ACLU has pointed out in support of the bill:

The Court’s decision has implications beyond Title VII, affecting pay discrimination claims brought under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act. H.R. 2831, therefore, addresses wage disparity based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, and disability.  It clarifies that such discrimination is not a one-time occurrence starting and ending with a pay decision, but that each paycheck lessened due to discrimination represents a continuing violation by the employer.  It only makes sense that, as long as the discrimination continues, a workers’ ability to challenge it should continue as well.  Critically, this legislation will ensure employers do not profit from years of discrimination simply because their employees were unaware of it for a few months.

Lilly Ledbetter therefore is the Dred Scott not only of women’s rights, but of all those for whom race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, and disability might be an issue. Thats a lotta people.

Well, the Senate voted on cloture (i.e. to bring the bill to a vote) yesterday and the motion failed, 56-42 (60 are needed to invoke cloture). The only Democrat voting against cloture was Harry Reid, who voted nay so that he could bring the bill up again later for a vote. Otherwise, here is the anti-anti-discrimination block of the U.S. Senate:

Alexander (R-TN)
Allard (R-CO)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bennett (R-UT)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Dole (R-NC)
Domenici (R-NM)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Lugar (R-IN)
Martinez (R-FL)
McConnell (R-KY)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Stevens (R-AK)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Warner (R-VA)
Wicker (R-MS)

If there were a Kansas-Nebraska Act of women’s rights, I imagine they’d be the ones to vote for that.

Two Senators didn’t vote, but we know how one, the straight-talk guy, would have voted had he been there:

“I am all in favor of pay equity for women, but this kind of legislation, as is typical of what’s being proposed by my friends* on the other side of the aisle, opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems. This is government playing a much, much greater role in the business of a private enterprise system.”

Ironically, he missed the vote because he was campaigning in New Orleans. Clearly, John McCain was in favor of pay equity before he was against it. His problem is… lawsuits?? That’s like saying, “I’m all for rebuilding New Orleans, but that opens us up to spending government money for all kinds of things.” That Johnny. He keeps getting ironicer and ironicer. 

Obama and Clinton, meanwhile, did the right thing.

*Every time John McCain says “friends,” an angel gets stabbed in the wings.


One response to “Senate Republicans: You Just Hold On There, Little Ladies

  1. Trying to get politicians or laws to change is a slow, and often unfair process. Even good laws to enforce equal pay can go wrong. A better bet is for consumers to unite against corporations to demand that they play fair and be honest.

    I’ve launched such a campaign against Goodyear here.

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