Illinois celebrates Lilly Ledbetter Day: equal pay for equal work

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CHICAGO - Illinois Governor Pat Quinn honored Lilly Ledbetter Oct. 14 for her struggle to win equal pay for women. At a gathering in downtown Chicago, Quinn proclaimed Thursday Lilly Ledbetter Day in Illinois.

Ledbetter was employed by Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in Gadsden, Alabama for 19 years. She and several men worked at management positions, all of them with the same job description but only Ledbetter was singled out by the company for its "Top Performer" award.

One day in 1998, as she neared retirement, she discovered a pay gap between her and her male peers. An anonymous note explaining the horrible reality had appeared in her inter-office mailbox.

"At first I just wanted to leave and run home," Ledbetter said during a conversation at the Chicago Cultural Center where she received the governor's proclamation. "I was so humiliated and ashamed, so embarrassed - how could this be happening to me? But then I began to get angry. The lower pay meant less income for the family I loved, less money in my retirement package, less social security. The full impact of my second class status hit me and when I went home and laid it all out to my husband and told him I wanted to file a complaint with EEOC (the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), his only question was, 'When do we go, tomorrow'?"

Although she won in the lower courts, her case was ultimately decided by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Alito, 'a member of the other political party,' as Ledbetter described him, who ruled, "she could have, and should have sued"  when the discriminatory pay practices were first begun instead of doing so after 180 days of the first incident.

Despite that defeat Ledbetter continued her fight until the Supreme Court decision was nullified when President Obama, on Jan. 29, 2009, signed into law the first new law of his administration: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

Ledbetter will never receive restitution from Goodyear, but she said, during the conversation with her on Oct. 14, "I'll be happy if the last thing they say about me after I die is that I made a difference." She said the company never offered her anything after she turned down an initial Goodyear offer of $10,000 to settle out of court.

Ledbetter said that her victory is "only a small part of a big battle we still have to fight. Women still earn, on the average only 77 cents to the dollar for men and for African American and Latino women it is far worse."

She said pay discrimination against women hurts everyone. "In my case, I had two kids in college and a husband who became seriously ill and had periods where he could not work. This hurts a whole family."

Ledbetter said a struggle such as hers "lets you know who is really with you and who is really against you. Unlike some women who are getting lower pay, I had the support of my husband and my children. But then there are others - including people in the churches and places where you think they'd know better - who turn against you."

For Ledbetter, the issue of who was for her and who was against her had a lot to do with her increased interest in politics.

"Even when he invited me to speak at the Democratic National Convention, I had not endorsed Obama," she said. "But after I spoke there John McCain made comments to the press that the reason women earn less for the same work is that they are less educated then men. It was then I decided - 'I'm endorsing Obama.'"

When it comes to the 2010 mid-term elections and Republican efforts to take over the House and Senate, Ledbetter said, "I urge everyone to pay very close attention to what the candidates say and to who they are really for. I know where Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid (Democratic Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader, respectively) stand. They did a lot to fight for equal pay. Don't fall for promises from people who really aren't there to back you up when you need them."

Photo: Lilly Ledbetter. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

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  • Nothing has worked to close the gender wage gap -- not the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, not affirmative action, not diversity... Nor will the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act work. The wage gap will stubbornly persist because pay-equity advocates stubbornly ignore this:

    Despite the 40-year-old demand for women's equal pay, millions of wives still choose to have no pay at all. In fact, according to Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of "The Secrets of Happily Married Women," stay-at-home wives, including the childless, constitute a growing niche. "In the past few years,” he says in a CNN August 2008 report at http://tinyurl.com/6reowj, “many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home.” (“Census Bureau data show that 5.6 million mothers stayed home with their children in 2005, about 1.2 million more than did so a decade earlier....” at http://tinyurl.com/qqkaka. Perhaps more women are staying at home because feminists and the media have told them relentlessly for years that women are paid less than men in the same jobs, and so why bother working if they're going to be penalized and humiliated for being a woman.)

    As full-time mothers or homemakers, stay-at-home wives earn zero. How can they afford to do this while in many cases living in luxury? Because they're supported by their husband.

    If millions of wives can accept no wages and live as well as their husbands, millions of other wives can accept low wages, refuse to work overtime, refuse promotions, take more unpaid days off, avoid discomforting wage negotiating — all of which lowers women's average pay. They can do this because they are supported by husbands who must earn more than if they'd remained single — which is how MEN help create the wage gap. (If the roles were reversed so that men raised the children and women raised the income, men would average lower pay than women.)

    What about single women who hope to marry? Most are keenly aware of men's extant general willingness to sooner or later economically support the woman they marry. Thus countless numbers of these women configure their jobs, careers, and aspirations accordingly. Many hope to marry — and actively look for — a man who earns enough to offer them the three options cited by Warren Farrell in his book "Why Men Earn More": work full-time, work part-time, or work full-time as a housewife. These women often regard a husband as their primary employer. In return for their husband's media-unappreciated generosity, these women plan to offer him three slightly different options: work full-time, work full-time, work full-time with overtime when the wife leaves the workforce, nearly always at a time of her choosing.

    Men's willingness to support their wives is the underlying real reason for the sexes' infamous (to ideological feminists and the mainstream media) wage gap, women's 78 cents to men's dollar.

    To many, the current legislation aimed at closing the gender wage gap soon begins to look absurd. But if women's pay-equity advocates want to pass absurd legislation that would really work, would indeed close the gender wage gap — almost overnight — they should urge a law that prohibits men from supporting women.

    Think about it. If men were prohibited from supporting women, every unemployed wife in the country would be forced to get a job. And millions of employed women would be forced to obtain a better one, raising women's average pay immediately and dramatically. “Without husbands," says Farrell, "women have to focus on earning more. They work longer hours, they're willing to relocate and they're more likely to choose higher-paying fields like technology. Women who have never been married and are childless earn 117 percent of their childless male counterparts."

    And how would this prohibition effect men? Millions would no longer feel the need for a high-paying job to attract women and gain and hold a woman's love. A good number of the men already holding a high-paying and likely stressful job would gleefully walk away, sending employers into a recruiting frenzy, perhaps to recruit mostly women.

    Men wouldn't have to earn as much, and women would have to earn more. Presto — the sexes' wage gap would snap shut with a thunderous clap. An ideological feminist fantasy come true!

    Posted by MaleMatters, 10/15/2010 6:21pm (4 years ago)

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