Champion of Equal Pay Speaks to SEA

“We Deserve an Equal Day’s Pay for an Equal Day’s Work.”

Famed activist Lilly Ledbetter, who fought for equal pay for women, visited New Hampshire on Monday on behalf of the re-elect Obama campaign. In between stops, she was able to chat briefly with us on the phone.  She’s been on quite a journey. Lilly Ledbetter worked at a Goodyear tire plant in Alabama for over 20 years, becoming the first woman to be promoted to supervisor. When she learned she was being paid less than her male counterparts, she turned to the courts for justice, but the Supreme Court denied her claim. The court ruled that she should have filed her suit within 180 days of the date that Goodyear first paid her less than her peers.

Q: What happened to you at work?
LL: Someone left an anonymous note in my mailbox. When I found out my pay check wasn’t equal – I was still working for Goodyear – and when I found out, I was discriminated against, I filed charges immediately.

Q: But the Supreme Court ruled against you.
LL: They said I waited too long (to file charges) and that was not true, but they put the law back to what it was just like before.  When that ruling came out, Justice Ginsburg told me to challenge Congress. (She wrote the dissent). The Supreme Court Justices don’t understand. When that ruling came out it, wasn’t about me. It was about my daughter and granddaughter and all those families across the nation. We can do something about the injustices, it’s not easy, but we have to stand up for what is right.

Q: Do you think things have improved for women since Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Act?
LL: It has, but only slightly. We need to pass the bill (The Paycheck Fairness Act). We took it to the Senate and it came up two votes short, just two votes short, can you imagine that? We need paycheck fairness. It helps women and their families across this country. We have to stand up for our rights and treat people fairly and equally. I didn’t stand up for money, I stood up for what is right.

Q: Just last week a reporter asked a representative for Mitt Romney his thoughts on the Lily Ledbetter law and they didn’t know about it. Any comment?
LL: (Laughs) Oh, “They’ll get back to you!” (Actual response).  That should have been a no brainer. That person should have said absolutely we support it. But to say, “We’ll get back to you.” Look, this is about equal pay. This is not for either party to take sides. The laws in this country are for everybody. This bill covers Democrats and Republicans. It is about American Families and about their rights. When that question was asked, there should have been no hesitation.”

Q: How does it feel to have a piece of legislation named after you?
LL: Well, it is an honor. As I told the President, I have a tremendous responsibility. It is a responsibility to go out there and try to reach as many people as I can. I am told in Alabama, I am probably the only one in the state to have a bill named after them. It is a tremendous honor and an awesome responsibility.

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