Barack Obama today signed the first bill of his presidency: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restores the rights of workers - in this case, a woman - to sue in the face of workplace discrimination. Obama called the bill "a simple fix to ensure fundamental fairness to American workers." Equal pay? Rights of workers? Fundamental fairness? Maybe it really IS (or eventually will be) a new day in America? Either way, we should take note, and give thanks.
The legislation is named for the 70-year-old Ledbetter, who worked at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in Alabama for almost 20 years before learning that she was paid less than men doing the same job. The bill overturns a two-year-old Supreme Court decision that found Ledbetter couldn't sue because she didn't discover the pay discrimination within six months of it taking place.
Today's bill allows Ledbetter and workers like her to sue within six months of discovering alleged pay discrimination, regardless of when it began. The Bush White House and Senate Republicans had earlier blocked efforts to make a similar change, arguing that such a fundamentally equitable arrangement might encourage lawsuits - an argument that only the Bush White House could make.
This, let us note, is the first bill to be signed by President Obama. He called it "only the beginning" of ensuring that "our daughters have the same rights, the same chances, and the same freedom to pursue their dreams as our sons."
This is good news. This is a promising turn of events. This is something, I know, I know, we are not accustomed to. But let us celebrate. Let us take heart. And let us thank - again, I know, it seems odd - those in power who did the right thing.
To thank Congress and urge them to keep working for fair pay, click here.