Fair Pay? Not Today…
Update to TODAY: Senate Considers Fair Pay Act: Today, Republican Senators blocked a cloture vote on the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The cloture vote (56-42) was just 4 votes shy. You can go here to see who voted how.
This would have closed the debate and moved the bill forward for a vote on its passage. That means the debate on this bill continues and we've lost the opportunity to commemorate Equal Pay Day (yesterday, April 22) with passage of a law that restores our rights against discrimination and economic inequality. Why did this cloture motion fail? Why would anyone oppose equal pay for equal work?
One answer: this is tortdeform at work, in action, right now. It reflects both misinformation about what the law would do, and a general disregard for the rights at stake here.
McCain who was on the campaign trail rather than on the Hill for this vote,had this to say:
''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,'' the expected GOP presidential nominee told reporters. ''This is government playing a much, much greater role in the business of a private enterprise system.''
This appeal to the marketplace over human beings' rights not to be discriminated against or otherwise harmed by corporate wrongdoing, is a present-day example of tortdeform rhetoric at work. These are the types of arguments used on a regular basis, to justify taking away our rights to hold corporations accountable when they do terrible things to people, like discriminate against employees on the basis of gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, etc. To make matters worse, this bill is not a radical new law. McCain is essentially saying that a modest bill that simply restores the state of the law prior to July 2007, when the Supreme Court had it's Supreme Corp hat on, steps on the toes of big business. Therefore, Republican Senators in opposition to the bill have voted to drag the process on out and do all they can to stall or quash its passage.
But contrary to McCain's claim, opponents to this bill are NOT in favor of pay equity for women. They are in favor of profit increases and legal immunity for big corporations. This callous disregard for human injustice is only further butressed by McCain's assumptions--rife with both sexist undertones and extreme misinformation--about what the "real" problem is with unequal pay: women are just not as qualified as men. He says:
''They need the education and training, particularly since more and more women are heads of their households, as much or more than anybody else,'' McCain said. ''And it's hard for them to leave their families when they don't have somebody to take care of them."
The conspiracy against our rights is at work right now. We see it today with the failure of a cloture vote that would have moved us toward restoring our laws and strengthening our civil justice system so that people can actually enforce their rights under the law. We see it with an at best misinformed Senate, that has bought into the lies of the tort "reform" lobby.
Also, as Harry Reid--who co-sponsored the bill with Republican Arlen Specter-- points out, this should be an issue of justice and not party line:
“There is no reason for the Fair Pay Act to be a partisan issue. I strongly urge my Republican colleagues to join Democrats in sending a strong and powerful message – that in America, discrimination will never be tolerated and justice will always be blind. But no matter the result today, that message – and our commitment to those enduring values – will continue.”
Now is the time for informed and engaged citizens to start standing up for our legal rights and demanding more from our representatives, regardless of our party affiliation. This requires recognizing tort "reform" lies and calling attention to the truth--truths like the fact that people should be paid equally for equal work, and when they're not, they shouldn't be out of a remedy because of some loophole that benefits big corporations and leaves ordinary people shafted.