Dear Senators Graham and DeMint, and Congressman Barrett,
Words cannot begin to express my complete and utter disappointment in your failure to vote in favor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
Mr. DeMint, I admit without reservation that I am no fan of yours, as you are far too conservative for my liking. So honestly, I didn't expect any better of you and assumed you had voted against it. I didn't vote for you last time, and rest assured that I will continue to support your opposition. Good day.
But as for you, Senator Graham and Congressman Barrett, I have supported you over the years. This is primarily because you are from my area (the next county over) and you understand the concerns of the smaller towns and their people. Or at least I thought you did..... And given the fact that you are both from areas whose people made their living in textiles or other manufacturing operations, I thought certainly that a bill like this would hold great appeal?
So what was it? What was it about this law that made you say, "Oh no.... I can't vote for that!" I don't get it. All it did was extend the amount of time that an employee has to file a pay discrimination suit. It really didn't say that companies had to do equal pay -- that's another law's job. All this did was right a horrific wrong in the hopes that there isn't another woman out there that misses a window of opportunity to get what she truly deserves.
Now, why in the world would that interest me, other than being female and being in solidarity with my sisters? It's simple, really: my grandmother.
For all her imperfections, I give my grandmother full credit for raising seven children on a mill worker's salary. I'm willing to bet that she never made close to the salary of the men around her, even while working the same job with the same skills and education. The CRA of 1964 came a little too late to help my grandmother and by extension her children (my father included). You see, my grandmother had it tough, raising those kids on that paltry salary. Again, you will never convince me that she wasn't paid less, and then only because she had two X chromosomes instead of an XY combination. And because it was so difficult, none of her kids graduated high school when they were teens. They all had to drop out at 16 and help support the family. I wonder ..... if any legislation about equal pay had been available at the time, or a Lilly Ledbetter Act to ensure that she had some extra time to right the wrong .... might my father and his siblings have been able to finish high school? Might college have been in their future with scholarships or grants for lower-income children?
I also think of my mother. My mother returned to the workforce when I was 7. She was blessed enough to do office work, but I also am fairly certain that no man would have ever agreed to work for what they paid her -- only if he were truly desperate. She did it willingly to help keep a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs. She and my dad made it possible for my brother and I to never have to have a job in high school unless we just truly wanted one. They made it possible for me to go on to college for more education and to get a job where I wouldn't hear the deafening roar of a loom in my sleep, or do work so monotonous and repetitive that years down the road, my body's cellular memory would still be screaming out in pain. They did that for us.
I also think of my godchild. In a few years, she may be entering the work force with a summer job or an after-school fun-money job. But right now, she's still young enough to not have to worry about that and can concentrate on being just a kid. Her mom and I are both strongly in favor of women's rights, and it's something we discuss with her on occasion. We both believe that whatever she chooses to do in life, gender should not be an issue in her employment. Frankly, for her sake, I'm glad the bill passed. Because believe you me, if she should ever find herself in that boat, I will personally help her put together the research --- not that she's not talented enough to do it on her own, I just want to be there for it! It ticks me off that she's growing up in a society that still thinks it's okay to discriminate in pay and opportunity simply because she's a woman. It makes me angry as all hell.
And this, Senators and Congressman, is just part of the reason for my deep disappointment. You all know women like my grandmother, my mother, my godchild. Me, for that matter. I want a working world where my gender is not a detriment -- I do not want you to give me any special consideration just because I'm a woman, nor do I want you to punish me because I'm a woman. I just want to be able to do the job, and have my performance, my abilities, and my talents judged -- the same as any man would.
November 2010, gentlemen. I will remember.