For those of you not familiar with the Lilly Ledbetter case, she worked for years for Goodyear Tires and upon her retirement learned there were serious pay disparities between herself and her male counterparts. Sensing some gender discrimination, she took the company all the way to the Supreme Court for back wages, but a divided court sided with the corporation, saying Ledbetter didn’t bring up the complaint soon enough, setting a short time window for when individuals can bring up discrimination cases in the workplace.
The ruling was considered a travesty for equal work/equal pay proponents, women and minorities and many said the newly Democratically-controlled Congress and President Barack Obama would make quick business of writing a law to make sure no one else would find themselves in this situation.
Now we have the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed into law Thursday by President Obama, and you don’t have to be a feminist to appreciate this. This helps all sorts of individuals who face workplace discrimination.
But this also gave us a chance to see the First Lady again, engaging in some of her first formal duties as America’s no. 1 hostess.
More after the jump!
As one of her first “duties” as First Lady, Michelle Obama hosted Ledbetter at a reception, spoke to reporters and praised Ledbetter for being a pioneer (even if she’ll never get the money she deserved). Mrs. Obama called Ledbetter, “an inspiration to women and men all across the country,” and Ledbetter expressed her gratitude to the President and First Lady.
The Chicago Sun-Times’ Lynn Sweet offered a detail account of the reception.
The reception hosted by Mrs. Obama for Ms. Ledbetter was held in the State Dining Room. Most of the folks from the signing ceremony walked across the hall to mix and mingle. Your faithful pooler observed several members of Congress included Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, House Speaker Pelosi, Axelrod, Donna Brazile, among others. President Obama also mingled with the crowd. He left, though, at around 10:54am, before his wife made her remarks. (He was not present for her remarks.) Mrs. Obama’s staff said that the representatives of about 150 advocacy organizations were also there.
The guests sipped orange juice and cranberry juice and enjoyed a mix of pastries, including apricot coffee cake, cherry orange scones, apple muffins and a fruit mix that included mango, apple, clementines and
pineapple, according to the wait staff. Some folks sat at small round tables adorned with yellow orchids, but mostly they stood and mixed and mingled.
Mrs. Obama, who was wearing a purple suit, white pearls and purple pumps, talked and shook hands with folks in the crowd. At 11:03am, she took her place behind a podium below a portrait of a Abraham Lincoln.
Lilly Ledbetter stood next to her. Here are Mrs. Obama’s remarks, which will not be distributed by the White House.
“Thank you for joining us today for this important event and welcome to the White House,” Mrs. Obama said. “Feel free, walk around, touch some stuff, just don’t break anything.”
Mrs. Obama said she met Ms. Ledbetter during the presidential campaign and praised her “commitment, her dedication, her focus.”
“She knew unfairness when she saw it and was willing to do something about it because it was the right thing to do, plain and simple,” Mrs. Obama said.
“In traveling across the country over the past two years, Lilly’s story and the broader issue of equal pay was a concern voiced over and over and over again,” Mrs. Obama said. “It was a top and critical priority for women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, older women, younger women, women with disabilities and their families.
“This legislation is an important step forward, particularly at a time when so many families are facing economic insecurity and instability,” Mrs. Obama continued. “It’s also one cornerstone of a broader commitment to address the needs of working women who are looking to us, to not only ensure that they’re treated fairly, but also to ensure that there are policies in place that help women and men balance their work and family obligations without putting their jobs or their economic security at risk.”
This is also a significant move on the behalf of the president due to some lingering questions and concerns among the feminist community about what kind of president Barack Obama will be when it comes to Womens’ Rights. As I suspected, his administration looks like it will continue some of the same progressive moves of past Democratic Administrations in pushing towards equality in the workplace as well as other women’s rights issues.
Things aren’t always going to be smooth here. Many prominent feminists did back Fmr. Sen. Hillary Clinton for president before switching to Obama after he won the nomination, but I think, in the end, the relationship will prove to be fruitful, albeit imperfect. (I’m not predicting the “ride or die” lovefest that was the National Organization for Women and one “pro-woman” but horrid, fornicating poon hound of contradictions, President William Jefferson Clinton.)
It’s obvious Michelle Obama gets “it” as an accomplished woman in her own right and I’m sure her husband shares many of the same views. Let’s hope more good news like this keeps coming in the Obama Administration.
Check out more pictures of the reception below or see even more pictures from the Obamas’ First 100 Days in office on the Obama Flickr page!