As I started to write this post, I realized I was at a bit of a loss. I love writing about fair pay for women, health care for children and better schools, but I just couldn’t help wondering why there’s still a need to be writing about them? I’d like to think that in 2009, those things aren’t too much to expect from the most powerful nation on Earth.
Lilly Ledbetter, or at least the legislation named after her, got her day in Congress a short time ago. And Thursday night, the bill passed in the Senate by a vote of 61 to 36 and is now headed to President Obama’s desk for signing. (YAY!!!!! Sorry. Needed to get that out my system!)
The Ledbetter Act would overturn the Supreme Court’s decision last year that denied employees the right to sue their employers for past wage discrimination if they didn’t find out about it within a relatively short time. Once President Obama signs the law (which he is expected to do), employees will be able to sue for back wages when they learn about it, even if it’s after decades, like Lilly Ledbetter.
Some Senators did their damnedest to cut the teeth out of the legislation, though. Why? Maybe because there’s been pressure from their corporate donors? AT&T has been trying to take advantage of the current Ledbetter situation when it comes to holding back benefits for its women employees who took maternity leave at some point in their careers, so I’m sure large donors haven’t been shy about making their displeasure on this bill known.
I don’t think there’s any question that President Obama will sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law when it gets to his desk (HAH! Take THAT SCOTUS Chief Justice mess-up-the presidential-oath John Roberts!) But there’s still a lot of work to be done on other social issues that impact so many families, including passage of the Fair Pay Act (which would prohibit employers from paying women and minority employees less than others).
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) has been fighting for 12 years to make this law a reality and she’s keeping her fingers crossed that in an Obama administration, the time is now. DeLauro told a few reporters, including myself, on a conference call interview last week sponsored by the American Association of University Women that she’ll also be fighting for passage of a federal bill this year that would ensure that workers get at least seven paid sick days a year to be able to help care for their families.
As for SCHIP, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, Senate debate is scheduled on that for next week. While I was waiting for the Ledbetter vote on C-SPAN 2 last night (come on, you KNOW I’m all geeky like that!), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told Senate members to plan on a busy week, and not to count on going home next weekend, because they’re going to stay until new SCHIP legislation and funding was passed. You go, Harry! (Insert my happy dance, here!)
There’s no word yet on what’s going to happen in terms of revisiting the No Child Left Behind policies of George W. Bush or what the timing is, but if this momentum on family friendly social issues keeps up, I’m sure I’ll be writing about it soon!