Lilly Ledbetter, the Jacksonville woman who has become the face of gender equality in American workplaces, included those words in a letter she sent this week to Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee.
She penned her letter in hopes that the former Massachusetts governor would clarify his position on an equal-pay bill that’s stalled in the U.S. Senate. Romney’s camp says he’s for the concept of equal pay, but he hasn’t said whether he supports the bill. Senate Republicans despise the bill, saying it’s no good for employers. A 2010 procedural vote on the bill failed.
Ledbetter hoped her letter would make a difference Tuesday when the Paycheck Fairness Act re-appeared for another procedural vote, though Democratic expectations were dim.
A day earlier, The New York Times even said the bill offered an example of Democrats’ “rare show of unity on a pay-equity bill.”
Even with last-minute efforts by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats, the bill didn’t receive the necessary 60 votes to keep the legislation alive. It died along party lines.
The 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which Obama signed when he took office, gave women the right to sue for back pay no matter when they learn of the unequal pay. The new bill would strengthen equality laws and close legislative loopholes.
Yet, rest assured that the president wasn’t shocked by Tuesday’s vote. On this issue — workplace equity — congressional Republicans’ response tells voters that they don’t believe in the importance of equal pay for equal work. Election-year sparring between the parties has made it virtually impossible for any movement, as Democrats have sought legislation on a variety of women’s issues and Republicans have remained consistent in their attacks on Obama over job creation and the economic recovery.
Considering it is an election year, that locked-down approach is likely inevitable.
Romney, his once-moderate policies twisted into a conservative knot to fit the current GOP formula, is another matter altogether. Ledbetter’s letter wasn’t a hypercritical rant. It was a plea for the GOP nominee to help move his party in the right direction on a vital issue.
As Ledbetter wrote, it’s 2012. Or, in essence, shouldn’t this country agree that it’s unjust policy for men to earn more than women when they perform the same job?
“I’m troubled,” Ledbetter wrote to Romney, “that you don’t seem to understand the consequences of pay inequality. It’s not just about a paycheck and it’s not just a women’s issue — it’s a family issue …
“More women are becoming breadwinners in their families, and unjustly lower wages mean we have less to spend in our communities to support the economy. The overtime pay, Social Security, and pensions we earn are based on our wages, so unfair pay today hurts us now and weakens our retirement security later.”
In other words, congressional Republicans have again rubber-stamped workplace inequality. It’s time Mitt Romney takes Lilly Ledbetter’s well-placed advice to heart.