I was sad to miss the EMILY’s List events at the DNC. But conference calls are a pretty good substitute, especially when I realized that I probably wouldn’t have been able to ask EMILY’s List President Ellen Malcolm any questions with a thousand other people around, but quickly got in the queue by phone!
She and Denise Singiser, the Women’s Vote Director for the Obama Campaign, started off talking about how Barack Obama is a long-time advocate of equal pay for women and supports legislation to accomplish that, including the Lily Ledbetter Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act.
That’s great, but my longstanding question has been how much will he really do if he is elected to ensure their prompt passage, rather than seeing them shuffled to the bottom of the list, only to languish.
I know that no candidate is going to pledge a time-line for any agenda item — the Clintons learned the hard way with their health care plan that maybe that wasn’t the best way for a new administration to get moving.
But Malcolm had a great answer about how to get legislation passed that will give workers a fair shake when it comes to pay issues, one that addressed it from a different angle, and I paraphrase:
We need to use the excitement about Barack Obama and the dissatisfaction with the Bush administration to expand the majority the Democrats have in the House and Senate. The Republicans used the filibuster to prevent the passage of the Lily Ledbetter Act, and even if it had passed, President Bush promised he would veto it. If we can convince voters, especially the newer, young voters, about the importance of being committed to voting for candidates for the House and Senate, we can create a filibuster-proof environment for fair pay laws that will make it to the desk of a President who has promised to sign them into law.
We need to convince younger voters that they can be partners in creating change by focusing on more than just their vote for who will live in the White House.
John McCain has made it clear that he is not going to do anything to give women, or men, who have faced pay discrimination any additional protections to make sure they can get the back wages they are owed, or remedy the impact that the discrimination had on their retirement accounts.
So taking a broader view of how to effect change is important. And, says Malcolm, harnessing the power of the newly-motivated Generation Y and Millennial voters, the ones who say they will vote for Obama, is a smart way to take a big step toward the change she’s committed to.