Workplace discrimination against women: Lilly Ledbetter’s story told by Lilly Ledbetter

I’m on a number of politicians’ e-mail lists. I’m sure you are, too. A lot of them tell me stories of places and people I know little about.

These political storytellers are, of course, trying to raise campaign cash and — as a writer, life-long reader and enthralled receptor of good storytelling — I often send ’em money. It’s my Support-Your-National-Good-Writer campaign.

I’ve written here before about Lilly Ledbetter and her worker’s rights case against Goodyear. The other day, Ms. Ledbetter herself, who is understandably raising money for President Obama (if you’ve followed her case, you know why), sent an e-mail summarizing her story in human terms.

It’s an exemplary one. I’m publishing her e-mail here in its entirety, not specifically to raise presidential campaign money, but because Ms. Ledbetter tells her real-life plaintiff story so damn well.

It also furthers my cause in convincing you how, if you become an individual plaintiff in a righteous cause, you advance and strengthen our laws. You might even get a law named after you.

My name is Lilly Ledbetter, and I was discriminated against because I’m a woman.

Some of you may have heard my story.

In 1998, after 19 years of service at a Goodyear factory, someone left an anonymous note in my mailbox listing the names and salaries of my male coworkers — who I learned that day were making at least 20 percent more than I was, even though many had less education, less training, and fewer years on the job.

I went to court and won, but in an appeal, the Supreme Court claimed I should have filed my complaint within six months of the first unfair paycheck. Of course, they didn’t say how I was supposed to fight for fair pay when I didn’t know I was being paid unfairly.

But that’s not why I’m writing you. I’m writing because President Obama heard about my case and went to work fighting for legislation that would prevent his two girls, and an entire generation of young women coming up in the workforce, from ever being disrespected in the same way. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act became the first piece of legislation he signed into law as president, exactly three years ago today.

Before he was elected, the President said he’d fight for middle-class people like me, and he kept his promise — not just on fair pay, but on so many other issues that matter to women.

That’s why I’m part of Women for Obama — will you join me and add your name to this special group that will help re-elect the President?

President Obama didn’t have to make fair pay a priority. Lord knows he had enough to worry about those first few weeks in the White House.

But the President is driven by a strong sense of fairness, and the responsibility he believes we have to one another to correct injustice wherever we can.

Part of that comes from his own story. The President’s grandmother worked in a bank her whole life, and kept working there long after she hit the glass ceiling. Some of the very men she had trained climbed the corporate ladder ahead of her.

That’s part of why he continues to fight for bills like the Paycheck Fairness Act, which he supported in his State of the Union last week. And it’s what drove him to fight for the Affordable Care Act — which ended discrimination against women based on pre-existing conditions, and is providing free preventive services like mammograms and contraception.

Growing up in the South, I learned the value of a good day’s work at a young age, picking and chopping cotton two seasons a year. It wasn’t until much later that I learned that hard work isn’t always enough when folks don’t have a president who’s looking out for them.

I’m excited to fight alongside President Obama in this election. I hope you’ll join us today…

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