Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Senate stalls the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act with a procedural maneuver!

It was supposed to be a victory of both symbol and substance. Today, on Equal Pay Day, the Senate would take up HR2831/S1843 - the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This bill, which has already passed the House, would re-align the language and intent of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with regard to ending discrimination in payments and salaries.

Under current law, Equal Pay protections are only enforceable if an individual files a complaint of discrimination within 180 days of the original discriminatory decision or act. Meaning, if you were to start a new job today, and I as your employer decided to pay you a lower salary because of your age, gender, race, or some other irrelevant factor, you would have to file a complaint within 180 days of your hiring or the statute of limitations would expire and you would lose your legal standing. Notwithstanding the fact that at the time of your hiring, you would have absolutely no way of knowing the relationship between your salary and the salaries of your co-workers.
That is precisely what happened to Lilly Ledbetter. The bill bearing her name (HR2831) was written in response to a lawsuit she filed against the Goodyear Tire Company and the subsequent ruling of the Supreme Court. Lilly Ledbetter had worked for Goodyear Tire and Rubber for 15 years. After discovering that for many years her pay had been 15 percent less than what the lowest-paid male employee in her position had been making, she filed suit. The Court rejected her lawsuit, noting that Equal Employment Opportunity Commission procedures require claims to be filed within 180 days of when the original act of discrimination took place. HR2831 would change the law that was the basis for the Court’s ruling. The bill would make sure that companies can be sued for wage discrimination whenever they issue a paycheck. The bill clarifies for the courts that every paycheck issued at a discriminatory rate shall be considered an individual act of discrimination. Therefore, the 180 day limitation would be recalculated from the date of any check issued at a discriminatory wage.

But when the bill came before the Senate, it was anything but simple.

The Senate version of the bill (S1843) introduced by Senator Ted Kennedy, clearly had the support of a majority of the Senate. However, when the motion was made to consider the bill, the legislators who opposed the bill utilized a procedural maneuver to require a Supermajority or 60+ vote. this was done through the employment of filibuster and cloture.

The filibuster is a Senate practice whereby a single Senator, or his minority party, can block full Senate consideration of a bill or nomination by extending debate on the proposal indefinitely. The resulting "filibuster" can ordinarily be stopped only by a "cloture" (or closure) vote, which requires 60 of the 100 Senators (a supermajority) to vote to end debate, and bring the bill or nomination to a final vote.

The Senators who opposed the bill knew that it had the support of the majority of the Senate, but they also know that they had enough votes to block a Cloture vote. So the motion to consider was made, the filibuster began, followed by a motion for Cloture which subsequently failed. What all of that means is that the bill has now been relegated once more to the proverbial 'back burner'. The Bill didn't actually "fail", rather, the filibuster/cloture maneuvers are 'sleight of hand tricks' whereby Legislators can deliberately block bills, resolutions, & legislation without it showing up on their voting record. In Cleveland where I grew up, we would call that a 'Hustle'. Since they never actually voted yay or nay (because they didn't allow the vote to take place) they are able to secure the interests of big business, yet still offer a 'truthy' assurance that they care about the issues of fairness and equality.

While I was greatly disturbed by the actions of this Senate, I do applaud the efforts of Senator Ted Kennedy and the other 43 co-sponsors of the bill, and I hope that you will continue to push for its eventual passage.

Below, I've posted the published votes on the Cloture motion:

Position YEAs ---56
Akaka (D-HI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Biden (D-DE)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Clinton (D-NY)
Coleman (R-MN)
Collins (R-ME)
Conrad (D-ND)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Harkin (D-IA)
Inouye (D-HI)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Kohl (D-WI)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Lieberman (ID-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Obama (D-IL)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Salazar (D-CO)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Smith (R-OR)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (R-PA)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Sununu (R-NH)
Tester (D-MT)
Webb (D-VA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)

Position NAYs ---42
Alexander (R-TN)
Allard (R-CO)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bennett (R-UT)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Dole (R-NC)
Domenici (R-NM)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Lugar (R-IN)
Martinez (R-FL)
McConnell (R-KY)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Reid (D-NV)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Stevens (R-AK)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Warner (R-VA)
Wicker (R-MS)

Not Voting - 2
Hagel (R-NE)
McCain (R-AZ)

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