Snap Fact #167

President Obama Championed The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act To Benefit All Americans and Families!
President Obama has been committed to women's issues from the very beginning of his presidency. He is not using this issue to pander to women or to rewrite history as his "Etch-A-Sketch” opponent is so comfortable in doing. In truth, the President made a groundbreaking contribution to fairness for women almost the moment he walked through the White House doors the first time. Here is a statement in his own words. 

“One of the first bills that I signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Act to make it easier for women to demand fairness - equal pay for equal work. We’re pushing for legislation to give women more tools regarding pay scales, and to fight discrimination. And we’ve encouraged companies to make workplaces more flexible so women do not have to choose between being a good employer or a good mom.”

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is named after a women who was paid less than her male co-workers at a Goodyear tire factory in Alabama. Ms. Ledbetter did not set out to be an activist; she did not even involve herself in politics much. After the Supreme Court ruled against her in one of their unfortunate 5-4 politically influenced decisions, she decided it was time to take her story public. 

Lilly was an overnight supervisor for two decades at the plant. She suffered sexual harassment and day to day discrimination. Shortly before she was to retire, a co-worker slipped her a note stating that her pay scale was far below that of her fellow male workers. She was moved to sue Goodyear. The verdicts went for and against her in the lower courts. Then, on May 27,2007, eight months after her case was heard by the Supreme Court, the monies awarded to her were overturned because she filed more than 180 days after receiving her discriminatory paychecks. (see Supreme Court Decision, opinion and dissent, on * link below)
In 2007 Presiden Bush was still in office. Senators Obama and McCain would soon be vying for the presidency. The Ledbetter case was an issue in the campaign. Obama backed the woman and McCain opposed her claim. The future president realized that this travesty against women was occurring every day all over the country. The Ledbetter Act had already been introduced in Congress shortly after the Supreme Court's decision in order to legislatively counteract the Court's decision. It languished there until January of 2009 when it was passed by the newly elected Democratic Congress and quickly signed by the President.

As he signed the Ledbetter Act he had his eyes fixed on the proverbial chessboard and he saw that much more would have to be done to level the playing field for women. He recognized that even as pay levels and jobs open up, more women would have to be prepared to fill the positions that would become available. “We have to recognize that only two in five business degrees go to women; fewer than one in four for engineering and computer science degrees go to women. No outspoken bias or outdated barrier should ever prevent a girl from considering careers in these fields. We’ve got to do more to encourage women to join these fields as well — make it easier to afford the education that’s required to make it. Send a clear message to our daughters, which I am doing every night: Math, Science, nothing wrong with it we need you to focus. That’s why our education reform, Race to the Top, has put priority on science and technology and engineering and math education. It had regarded states that took specific steps to ensure that all students – especially underrepresented groups like girls - have the opportunity to get excited about these fields at an early age. And we have helped more than 2.3 million more young women afford to pursue higher education with our increases in Pell grants. That’s good news.”