With Obama beating McCain among women by as much as 15 points in the national polls, the Arizona Senator suddenly had a come to Jesus moment on fair pay issues while campaigning in Hudson, Wisconsin.
In fact, McCain seem to tap into his inner feminist when he told an audience of full of the conservative faithful that “Women in America not only take care of the children, manage the household budgets and balance the pressures of work and family, they also run the enterprises that keep our country running.” He also assured the women dominated audience that he was for “equal pay for equal work” and that he wanted to make sure “there is equal opportunity in every aspect of our society.”
And according to Fox News Embeds, Mr. Straight Talk Express told women that Obama’s policies “would make it harder for women to start news businesses, harder for women to create or find new jobs, harder for women to manage the family budget, and harder for women and their families to meet their tax burden.”
If McCain decided that he wants to genuinely adopt a more progressive stance on women’s issues, that’s fine with me. We need more politicians to do so. But first he needs to account for why he did not support fair pay legislation when it came to a vote earlier this year.
The legislation in question is called the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The legislation was named after an Alabama women who was a victim of pay discrimination for more than 19 years at the Gadsen, Alabama Goodyear plant, and sued her employer as soon as she found out she was being discriminated against.
Initially, she won her claim at the federal trial court level where was awarded back pay and other damages. But Goodyear appealed the decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where under a cramped interpretation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, a narrow majority ruled that Ms. Ledbetter filed her claim too late.
The 1964 Civil Rights Act says a plaintiff must file a complaint within the 180 days “after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.” The law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, creed, disability, age, and national origin. For decades, the Supreme Court and lower courts understood this provision to mean that employees could sue within 180 of receiving a discriminatory paycheck since each check represented a related yet distinct instance of discrimination in a series of discriminatory acts.
Justice Alito, however, had a different interpretation. Writing for the majority, Justice Alito found Ms. Ledbetter should have filed her suit with the EEOC within 180 days of the original decision to pay her differently. “Current effects alone cannot breathe life into prior, uncharged discrimination,” declared the Justice.
I suppose it did not matter much to the five Justices that Ms. Ledbetter only found out that she was a victim of pay discrimination through an anonymous note from a fellow co-worker and thus impossible for her file the charge within the time Alito recommended given the secrecy surrounding salary pay in the workplace.
But in April of this year, Democrats tried to rectify this by passing a fair pay bill that will among other things rectify this seemingly small ambiguity in the law. Now most reasonable people would consider this a nonpartisian issue worth solving. But not everyone saw it that way.
Apparently, some lawmakers are worried that allowing workers to take their employers to court would be bad for big business and designed to enrich trial lawyers. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell at the time said, “We think that this bill is primarily designed to create a massive amount of new litigation in our country, and I think that is the reason for the resistance to its passage on our side”
And the presumptive Republican nominee Senator John McCain also concurred:
I am all in favor of pay equity for women, but this kind of legislation, as is typical of what’s being proposed by my friends on the other side of the aisle, opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems…This is government playing a much, much greater role in the business of a private enterprise system
So in April he was against voting for a bill that would help combat pay discrimination, but now in July he is all for “equal pay for equal work.” That’s definitely not straight talk, thats flip flop and pander for more votes talk.
For the record, both Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton took time from campaigning to vote for the bill and enthusiastically supported it.
Watch Lilly Ledbetter tell her story.
(H/T: Fox News Embeds)
Note: According to a 2006 U.S. Census Bureau report, median annual income earnings for men were greater than women in every single state. And in 2005, men’s median annual earnings amounted to $41,965 compared to $32,168 for women. In other words, women earned, 76.7 percent of what men made. The same study also found that the wage gap persisted across gender and racial lines.
- Asian American women made 80.7 percent of what white men earned.
- African American men made 73.5 percent of what white men earned.
- African American women made 63.2 percent of what white men earned.
- Hispanic men earned 58.4 percent of what white men earned.
- Hispanic women made 52.2 percent of what white men earned.
- Native American men made 71.6 percent of what white men earned.
- Native American women made 59.7 percent of what white men earned.
- White women made 73 percent of what white men earned.
The only outlier here are Asian men who tend to be over represented among high wage earners as a group in the U.S. and earned $1.04 for every dollar made by white men. This is in no small part is due to how our immigration laws favor high skilled and highly educated workers. For example, another 2006 study, found that 69 percent of all Asians are foreign born, and 44 percent of all Asians, compared to just 24 percent of the general U.S. population, had a Bachelor’s degree or better.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau and Ameredia.
Note II: Even when you account for education, profession, and hours work, etc., the pay gap among men and women still persists. For example, a report by the American Association of University Women found that even among recent grads:
In education, a female-dominated major, women earn 95 percent as much as their male colleagues earn. In biological sciences, a mixed-gender major, women earn only 75 percent as much as men earn. Likewise in mathematics—a male dominated major—women earn only 76 percent as much as men earn.