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I, Virginia Bergman, pledge not to vote for a male presidential candidate in 2016 just because he's male.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Media Coverage of Equal Pay Act: Mrs. Obama’s Apparel Trumps Ledbetter’s Struggle for Justice

Lily Ledbetter speaks at the Democratic National Convention last August. Photo credits: Ron Edmonds/AP

There’s no question the Ledbetter equal pay act signed yesterday by President Obama is a major step forward for working women. However, as I read several news accounts of the celebratory event in the White House, led by both Barack and Michele Obama, my enthusiasm faded when I noticed Lily Ledbetter’s still unresolved struggle for justice with the Goodyear Company – it will never have to pay up - was buried near the end of each report.

For example, in his piece at the Christian Science Monitor, David Cook places Ledbetter’s statement to that effect after his artful description of what Michele Obama was wearing for the occasion:

(emphasis mine)

With Ms. Ledbetter standing next to her, Mrs. Obama paid tribute to her “commitment, her dedication, her focus.” Mrs. Obama, wearing a purple suit and white pearls, said Ms. Ledbetter “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.”

In response, Ms. Ledbetter said, “Words cannot begin to describe how honored and humbled I feel today. When I filed my claim against Goodyear with the EEOC ten years ago, never, never did I imagine the path that it would lead me down.”

“I have spent the past two years since the Supreme Court decision in my case, fighting for equal pay for this,” Ms. Ledbetter said. “But to watch him {President Obama} sign a bill that bears my name, a bill that will help women and others fight pay discrimination in the workplace is truly overwhelming. Goodyear will never have to pay me what it cheated me out of. I will never see a cent from my case. But with the passage and the president’s signature today, I have an even richer reward.”

Here’s the back story provided earlier in Cook’s article:

After 19 years on the job at Goodyear Tire & Rubber, Ledbetter found that she was the lowest paid supervisor in her plant despite being more experienced than several male counterparts. A jury found the company guilty of discrimination but the Supreme Court held that a discrimination claim must be filed within 180 days of the first offense. The measure Obama signed today provides that every discriminatory paycheck extends the statute of limitations for 180 days.

We can wholeheartedly celebrate what Lily Ledbetter has done on behalf of all working women, but at the same time we are most certainly obligated to protest the injustice she continues to suffer at the hands of the Goodyear Company.

Along with the Goodyear Company, the media bears its share of shame for making Ledbetter’s long struggle for justice secondary to its focus on the Obamas, including what Michelle was wearing on this important occasion.


  1. They really don't get it.

    This was about Lilly, not Michelle. Michelle should have known this and dressed down.

    How fake.


    It also appears as if the bill doesn't really do much.

  2. Yes, Alessandro, Michelle upstaged Lily, and the media went along, apparently unaware that Lily was the most important person in the story - she should have been quoted in the lead paragraph of the coverage.

    Thanks for stopping by, and I do appreciate your work at DailyPuma.

  3. Nice car, no wheels:


    Maybe Michelle can play dress up and sit in it?