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Obama Signs Lilly Ledbetter Act

Former Goodyear employee Lilly Ledbetter of Alabama cut an ad for President Obama during his campaign for office. Today, the fair pay law named after her gets signed by the man she helped elect. Obama's statement on the law this morning:

It is fitting that with the very first bill I sign - the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act - we are upholding one of this nation's first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness.

It is also fitting that we are joined today by the woman after whom this bill is named - someone Michelle and I have had the privilege of getting to know for ourselves. Lilly Ledbetter didn't set out to be a trailblazer or a household name. She was just a good hard worker who did her job - and did it well - for nearly two decades before discovering that for years, she was paid less than her male colleagues for the very same work. Over the course of her career, she lost more than $200,000 in salary, and even more in pension and Social Security benefits - losses she still feels today.

Now, Lilly could have accepted her lot and moved on. She could have decided that it wasn't worth the hassle and harassment that would inevitably come with speaking up for what she deserved. But instead, she decided that there was a principle at stake, something worth fighting for. So she set out on a journey that would take more than ten years, take her all the way to the Supreme Court, and lead to this bill which will help others get the justice she was denied.

Because while this bill bears her name, Lilly knows this story isn't just about her. It's the story of women across this country still earning just 78 cents for every dollar men earn - women of color even less - which means that today, in the year 2009, countless women are still losing thousands of dollars in salary, income and retirement savings over the course of a lifetime.

But equal pay is by no means just a women's issue - it's a family issue. It's about parents who find themselves with less money for tuition or child care; couples who wind up with less to retire on; households where, when one breadwinner is paid less than she deserves, that's the difference between affording the mortgage - or not; between keeping the heat on, or paying the doctor's bills - or not. And in this economy, when so many folks are already working harder for less and struggling to get by, the last thing they can afford is losing part of each month's paycheck to simple discrimination.

So in signing this bill today, I intend to send a clear message: That making our economy work means making sure it works for everyone. That there are no second class citizens in our workplaces, and that it's not just unfair and illegal - but bad for business - to pay someone less because of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion or disability. And that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory, or footnote in a casebook - it's about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives: their ability to make a living and care for their families and achieve their goals.

Ultimately, though, equal pay isn't just an economic issue for millions of Americans and their families, it's a question of who we are - and whether we're truly living up to our fundamental ideals. Whether we'll do our part, as generations before us, to ensure those words put to paper more than 200 years ago really mean something - to breathe new life into them with the more enlightened understandings of our time.

That is what Lilly Ledbetter challenged us to do. And today, I sign this bill not just in her honor, but in honor of those who came before her. Women like my grandmother who worked in a bank all her life, and even after she hit that glass ceiling, kept getting up and giving her best every day, without complaint, because she wanted something better for me and my sister.

And I sign this bill for my daughters, and all those who will come after us, because I want them to grow up in a nation that values their contributions, where there are no limits to their dreams and they have opportunities their mothers and grandmothers never could have imagined.

In the end, that's why Lilly stayed the course. She knew it was too late for her - that this bill wouldn't undo the years of injustice she faced or restore the earnings she was denied. But this grandmother from Alabama kept on fighting, because she was thinking about the next generation. It's what we've always done in America - set our sights high for ourselves, but even higher for our children and grandchildren.

Now it's up to us to continue this work. This bill is an important step - a simple fix to ensure fundamental fairness to American workers - and I want to thank this remarkable and bi-partisan group of legislators who worked so hard to get it passed. And this is only the beginning. I know that if we stay focused, as Lilly did - and keep standing for what's right, as Lilly did - we will close that pay gap and ensure that our daughters have the same rights, the same chances, and the same freedom to pursue their dreams as our sons.

Thank you.

By Web Politics Editor  |  January 29, 2009; 10:27 AM ET
Categories:  Primary Source  
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Comments

I am thunderstruck that only five Republican Senators voted for this bill, and four of them are women, and that only a handful more Republican Congressmen supported it.

It's patently obvious that Ms. Ledbetter was given a raw deal after the Supreme Court threw her out on a (previously unknown) technicality.

And contrary to the protestations of some Republicans, and few uninformed comments here, the statute is not a honeypot for lawyers because it significantly caps compensation and damages.

All this fix says is that, if you, like Ms. Ledbetter, don't find out that you've been paid 40% less than men doing your job for almost 20 years, the door isn't closed on you because you were kept in the dark for 19 years. You do recall the lawyer who asked Sen. McCarthy (of the witch hunt fame) if he had no compassion.

Posted by: thmas | January 30, 2009 12:20 AM | Report abuse

Saint-
That's a bit cynical. It's a good law. We choose to have rights, and we don't ask for permission from the entitled rich.

Posted by: rooster54 | January 29, 2009 8:16 PM | Report abuse

TEAM OBAMA: DISMANTLE THE BUSH-CHENEY VIGILANTE INJUSTICE NETWORK

D.O.J. must move swiftly to dismantle the nationwide extrajudicial punishment network of citizen vigilantes and federal security/intel/law enforcement operatives which has made a mockery of the judicial system for the past eight years.

Crimes against humanity are being committed across the nation via the use of so-called "directed energy weapons" which the Bush D.O.J. recently confirmed are being widely deployed to police forces nationwide.

These RADIATION weapons emit silent, pulsed bursts of various forms of radiation -- and are degrading and damaging the health of those on the receiving end as well as their operators.

This weaponry has NO PLACE in civilized society -- much in the hands of security personnel who interact with the public.

The widespread deployment of this weaponry virtually assures its misuse. Imagine if rogue actors tried to use its silent, deadly force to induce illness or to disable our political leaders.

Perhaps they already have.

Please, Mr. Obama, read this article. The victims of "The American Gestapo" continue to suffer. This journalist is among them, and I am prepared to give full testimony.

http://my.nowpublic.com/world/gestapo-usa-govt-funded-vigilante-network-targets-terrorizes-u-s-citizens

http://my.nowpublic.com/world/domestic-torture-radiation-weaponry-americas-horrific-shame

Posted by: scrivener50 | January 29, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

A Lawyer's first Act;

to Perpetuate more work for Lawyers!

Who'd have thunk that?! ;~)

Posted by: SAINT---The | January 29, 2009 4:01 PM | Report abuse

mtcooley:

Just as long as you know that I don't think all "women don't work but stand around barefoot in the kitchen" all the time at least ; )

Posted by: JakeD | January 29, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

This is long overdue, but I'm not sure it's going to make much of a difference. As a society we need to start raising our daughters to ASK for what they want rather than politely waiting for someone to notice them.

Posted by: StephanieInCA | January 29, 2009 2:29 PM | Report abuse

At least Barack was elected, unlike George the Terrible.

Posted by: rooster54 | January 29, 2009 2:13 PM | Report abuse

JakeD-
Your HUSSEIN fetish detracts from the fact that you do a better than average job of promoting stupid ideas. Keep it up. It helps us in discrediting you.

Kudos to Lilly Ledbetter! We workers should all follow her example to counter our collective exploitation. Inflation has risen 60-80% faster that the average wage has over the last 50 years. We produce more, and work too long for less. Executives now take 411 times what we get on average. They've bled us dry, and ruined the economy. Let's take back what was stolen from us!

Posted by: rooster54 | January 29, 2009 2:10 PM | Report abuse

>>Barack HUSSEIN Obama, Jr. (assuming that Sr. is even his real father) is not a "natural born" citizen and therefore not legally President of the United States.

So still holding on to that? Good to know you have the stay the course mentality that's done us so much good.

Posted by: mtcooley | January 29, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Schopenhauer said it over and over, a dolt will not see anything of value. The US Supreme Court justices (all dolts for 200 years) have not seen the injustice in paying women less than men for the same work. Why should they, after all their professors at university/college were also dolts.

Seems like Obama is starting to correct the lopsided society created by dolts, past and present.

Obama, a breath of fresh air.

Posted by: hchiba | January 29, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

mtcooley and JohnQuimby:

I'm not talking about the merits of the purported legislation. Barack HUSSEIN Obama, Jr. (assuming that Sr. is even his real father) is not a "natural born" citizen and therefore not legally President of the United States.

Posted by: JakeD | January 29, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse

>>Obama did not legally sign this into law.

Because everyone knows women don't work but stand around barefoot in the kitchen!They'll take what they get and like it. They're not competant people that are equal in ability to peers!

Posted by: mtcooley | January 29, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

That's OK JakeD,

As an overcompensated white male you don't have a thing to worry about.

Posted by: JohnQuimby | January 29, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Obama did not legally sign this into law.

Posted by: JakeD | January 29, 2009 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Not to be cruel but I would like to see the men who sit on the Supreme Court have their own paycheck made void. These toadstools need a reality check, blub blub blub. How wrong you are, when you decide you are always right, Mr. Know it all. You really didn't earn your $ well- you didn't.

Posted by: bdrevers | January 29, 2009 10:42 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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