Friday, January 23, 2009

Fair Pay Act Passes Senate

Change is coming in the area of wage discrimination and it's long overdue. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passed the Senate yesterday.
The Senate approved landmark worker rights legislation on Thursday that will make it easier for those who think they've endured pay discrimination to seek legal help. The vote was 61-36.

The House of Representatives approved a similar measure on January 9, three days after the 111th Congress convened. Because the Senate made modest changes in the House version, the House must pass it again. Once it does, as is assured, this will be one of the first bills that President Barack Obama signs into law.
Senators Levin and Stabenow voted yes, as did all the other female senators and Democrats (except for Kennedy and two vacant seats). Five Republicans supported the bill - Collins, Hutchison, Murkowski, Snowe, and Specter - and 35 Senate Republicans voted against it, including Alabama's two senators, Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions. Here's the roll call.

(When the House voted earlier this month, Michigan Republicans Ehlers, Hoekstra, Camp, McCotter, Miller, Rogers and Upton voted no.)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid predicts President Obama will sign the bill because "this administration stands for equality and fairness."

Those Republicans who voted against the bill aren't too concerned with fairness and equality.
"This bill is about effectively eliminating the statute of limitations on pay discrimination," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "Job creators have enough to worry about these days. We shouldn't add the threat of never-ending lawsuits."
Great. Not one ounce of concern for workers like Ledbetter who have been victims of discrimination. Mitch and other Republicans are clueless, or missing the point as Steve Benen puts it.
To hear opponents of the bill tell it, making it easier to challenge pay discrimination will lead to more lawsuits. That's almost certainly true. But therein lies the point -- if American workers are facing unjust wage discrimination, there should be more lawsuits. Those are worthwhile lawsuits, challenging an injustice. Ideally, employers would stop discriminating, as most already do, and in turn, there'd be fewer lawsuits.
Challenging injustice. Ending discrimination. That's the kind of change Americans want. Haven't Republicans been paying attention?

(Cross-posted at Blogging for Michigan.)


abi said...

It's hard to understand the thinking (or am I giving them too much credit) of McConnell and others like him. Are we really supposed to have sympathy for businesses that practice wage discrimination?

I think you're right, Kathy. Like Obama said at the inauguration, the ground has shifted under the feet of dinosaurs like McConnell. They just haven't been paying attention.

Kathy said...

Abi, I think you are giving McConnell and others too much credit. They side with businesses time after time because they're blind to what's happening to people in this country.

That callous obliviousness to real people's needs is what led voters to dump so many Republicans.

And what you said - "Are we really supposed to have sympathy for businesses that practice wage discrimination?" - hits the nail on the head. Wrong is wrong. Average Americans can see that but not Republicans.