A few minutes before Sen. Hillary Clinton spoke to the Democratic convention Tuesday night, a self-described "grandmother from Alabama" addressed the delegates with considerably less fanfare. The speaker was Lilly Ledbetter, who lost a 2007 Supreme Court 5-4 decision that has become one of the most criticized rulings of the Roberts Court. The Court ruled that her Title VII claim of pay discrimination at a Goodyear Tire plant in Alabama was filed too late. She should have made her claim years earlier, the majority said, when the company made the initial salary decision even though she did not become aware of the disparity until years later.
"My job demanded a lot, and I gave it 100 percent," Ledbetter told the convention. "I kept up with every one of my male co-workers." The salary differentials, she said, "affected my family's quality of life then, and they affect my retirement now." She noted that in dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the ruling made no sense in the real world. "She was right." In response to the ruling the House of Representatives passed a bill that would change Title VII to ensure that claims like hers would be valid, but in the Senate, Republicans have prevented a vote.
"We can't afford more of the same votes that deny women their equal rights," Ledbetter said, asserting that "equal pay for equal work is a fundamental American principle."
"Barack Obama is on our side," Ledbetter continued. "He is fighting to fix this terrible ruling, and as president, he has promised to appoint justices who will enforce laws that protect everyday people like me."