Public Employee Press
Lilly Ledbetter, Barack Obama and the U.S. Supreme Court
Born and raised in Possum Trot, Alabama, Lilly Ledbetter married young and started a family. Opening her own bank account, getting a credit card, and going to work against her husband's expectations were her first acts of independence, and in 1979 she became one of the first women managers at the nearby Goodyear Tire factory.
Now her name stands for a U.S. Supreme Court decision and the first law President Barack Obama signed.
Her new book, "Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond," includes a gripping account of the harassment, isolation, acts of vandalism, and other punishing experiences she put up with as she sought to do a job she loved that paid a good wage - conditions that drove other women out of these high-paying jobs and back into the secretarial pool.
After an anonymous note informed her that male managers were paid 40 percent more than she was, Ledbetter went to court against the company that discriminated against her because she was female.
Ledbetter won, but the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court reversed her hard-earned legal victory. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg read her stinging dissent aloud from the bench, charging the 5-4 majority with ignoring real-world discrimination, encouraging Lilly to fight on, and challenging Congress to remedy the injustice done to all working women by the 2007 ruling.
Only two years later, Ledbetter stood beside President Obama as he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law. Her powerful, eloquent book is available for members to borrow at the Education Fund Library in Room 211 at DC 37.
— Jane LaTour
Associate Editor, Public Employee Press