Category Archives: Ledbetter Decision

Keeping the Ladies in Waiting: The Paycheck Fairness Act

Woman's List 2On January 23, 2013 — yes, that’s 2013 — Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT3) introduced H.R. 377, the Paycheck Fairness Act.  The House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections has jurisdiction over bills of this nature, and by April 2013 the bill hadn’t moved.  Supporters of the bill filed a discharge petition. As of Tuesday, April 1, 2014 the petition to get a vote on the bill got its 197th signature. (113-1) It is 21 signatures shy of the 218 required.

Discharge petitions are a strategy of questionable value, since depending upon how such maneuvers are analyzed the success rate ranges from about 2% to 9% of all such attempts. [WaPo]

Nor has the idea met with enough support in the U.S. Senate.  As the last signature was being appended to the House Discharge Petition 113-1 in April 2014, Republicans in the Senate were blocking consideration of a companion bill.  [Nation] S. 2199, Senator Barbara Mikulski’s (D-MD) Paycheck Fairness Act was blocked when Senate Republicans refused to lift their filibuster on a 53-44 vote. [rc 103] Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) was among those voting to sustain the filibuster.

Republican opposition to the Paycheck Fairness legislation appears to be a masterpiece of ideological spin.  We, announce the members of the GOP, are really supportive of women’s issues — but government isn’t the answer.

There was this example: “The fact is the Republicans don’t have a war on women, they have a war for women, to empower them to be something other than victims of their gender,” Mike Huckabee said at the Republican National Committee winter meeting in January.” [Nation] Huckabee offers a talking point in which any attempt to assist women (or any other group for that matter) merely serves to create a sense of ‘victimhood’ thus disparaging attempts by individuals to grab their own bootstraps at improve their own economic circumstances. It’s little more than the hoary Moral Hazard Issue, modified and transformed into an excuse to do nothing to help anyone, ever.

And this one:  “All Republicans support equal pay for equal work,” wrote Republican National Committee press secretary Kirsten Kukowski, communications director Andrea Bozek and NRSC press secretary Brook Hougesen in a memo. “And while we all know workplace discrimination still exists, we need real solutions that focus on job creation and opportunity for women.” [Nation]  This might be characterized as the Double Side Step Dance.  Oh, we’re all in favor of equal pay for equal work, but — we need more tax breaks for multi-national corporations, etc. offering more support for those elusive Job Creators.

And these: “Republicans have said that, although they support equal pay for equal work, the bill would increase civil lawsuits. They also say that the bill is unnecessary because discrimination based on gender is already illegal.” [WaPo] Ah, the recurring Republican nightmare, on display with nearly every bill which ever sought to regulate corporate behavior — It will spawn litigation.

The Lily Ledbetter Act was supposed to have done that [TNR]… except it didn’t.  Redundancy is another GOP argument for doing nothing.  The line can be summarized as, “There is no need to improve any employee protections because current statutes already provide enough protection.” This is an argument which neatly avoids the rationale set forth in the legislation which explains the necessity of the proposed improvements.  Witness, the prohibition of penalties for employees who discuss their wages, and the authority of the EEOC to collect data from employers about wages.

And finally: It’s just election year politicking. [NYT] Translation: You’re just trying to make us look bad. If so, it was successful.

So, what might disgorge the Paycheck Fairness Act (equal pay for equal work) from the Congressional bill grinder?

Get Specific:  At town hall sessions, and public Q&A events — Instead of asking “Do you, Congressman Bilgewater or Senator Sludgepump, support equal pay for equal work?” Ask them: What is wrong with prohibiting employers from penalizing employees who discuss their wages or salaries?  What is wrong with allowing the EEOC to collect data on wages and salaries from employers?

If they stammer out that those sound like good ideas, then ask “Why didn’t you support the Paycheck Fairness Act which included those two items?”  Or, if the individual is not an incumbent, ask “Will you support legislation which includes those provisions?”

Get rational: At bottom the Paycheck Fairness Act is of a piece with family finances. [Additional here]  From a previous post:

“The pay gap has some very real economic consequences.   One analysis projects that if the pay gap could be mitigated, and more women could participate in the workforce, we could add about 3 to 4% to our national economy.”

Again, specifics matter.  In Nevada, a woman earns approximately 88 cents for every dollar earned by a man.  Additionally:

“125,402 households in Nevada are headed by women. About 26 percent of those households, or 32,479 households, have incomes that fall below the poverty level. Eliminating the wage gap would provide much needed income to women whose salaries are of critical importance to them and their families.” [NatPart pdf]

Allowing a politician to pontificate about the highly generalized moral hazard of hypothetical victimhood, or rattle on about redundancy and projected litigation only serves to skirt real economic issues faced by real families.  Ask, “What would be the overall economic benefit to Nevada if the $6,319 yearly wage gap between the earnings of men and women were narrowed?”

Playing with the calculator — if only 1,000 of those households in Nevada, headed by women, were to get the same wages as their male counterparts for doing the same job, and that $6,139 gap were closed, the result would be $6,139,000 added to the aggregate demand for goods and services in this state.

Get Out and Vote.

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Filed under Economy, equal pay, Heller, Ledbetter Decision, Nevada economy, Politics, Republicans, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

>The In Box: Lily Ledbetter Anniversary

>** Happy Anniversary Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — it’s one year old today! The Nevada State Democratic Party reminds us: “The act is another step toward ensuring equal pay for equal work. The legislation ensures that if a worker discovers disparities between his or her salary and another worker who performs the same work, that worker has 180 days from the most recent paycheck, not the date they agreed upon their salary, in which to file a complaint whether the worker was aware of the disparity or not.” We might also want to remember that Representatives Berkley (D-NV1), Titus (D-NV3), and Senator Harry Reid supported the legislation. Senator Ensign and Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV2) did not.

** Representative Dina Titus (D-NV3) on the 5.7% fourth quarter economic growth statistic released today: “Growing our national economy is a critical component of an economic recovery for Southern Nevada. With a local economy that is closely tied to the tourism and gaming industry, we need people around the country to have money in their pocket so they can come to Las Vegas. The Recovery Act, which included the largest package of tax cuts in history, and the first-time homebuyer tax credit were just some of the steps we took to lay the foundation for this growth. “Today’s news is a welcome sign, but our work is far from over. I am working every day to create jobs in Southern Nevada and stem the tide of foreclosures so as our national economy recovers, the people of Southern Nevada will not be left behind.”

Beware, however, the false promise of economic growth from tax cuts, credits, and other revenue gimmicks! If we really, really, want to get economic growth stabilized, and untethered from growth in the financial sector, then consideration must be given to INFRASTRUCTURE investment, and to rebuilding America’s decimated manufacturing sector.

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Filed under Berkley, Ensign, Heller, Ledbetter Decision, Titus

>Women and Children First, except for Ensign and Heller: Opposition to Fair Pay and SCHIP Bills

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Ledbetter Fair Pay Act: Nevada Representatives Shelley Berkley (D-NV1) and Dina Titus (D-NV3) were among the 250 members of the House who voted in favor of S. 181, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. Congressman Dean Heller (R-NV2) voted against the measure yesterday. [roll call 37] The bill passed 250-177, with 6 not voting. The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passed the Senate on January 22nd, by a 61-36 margin with Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) voting in favor, and Senator John Ensign (R-NV) in opposition to the bill. [roll call 14]

SCHIP: The Senate also tabled the DeMint Amendment No. 43 to H.R. 2 which would have required cost sharing by the States for any individual whose income exceeds 200% of the poverty line in its administration of the SCHIP program. Senator Ensign voted to adopt the amendment (or, voted against tabling it) during Roll Call 16. DeMint’s amendment was tabled on a 60-37 vote, with two members of the Senate not voting.

In practical terms, the 2009 Poverty Guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services for the lower 48 and the District of Columbia shows income levels of $10,830 (for one person) to $37,010 annual income for a family of eight as being the cut off line determining poverty. A family of four in Nevada would qualify if their annual income was $22,050. Under the terms of DeMint’s Amendment a Nevada family with two children would not qualify for SCHIP assistance if the parents were earning more than $44,100. An individual earning the Nevada statewide median wage ($14.68/hr) would bring home $117.44 per day in gross income. This means that the breadwinner would have to work 375.5 days per year to earn enough to break the 200% threshold. There might be a new calendar for 2009, but it still only has 365 days in it. Proponents could argue that “the average” family would qualify. However, if we calculate using the statewide mean ($18.43) the picture is narrower. Using the mean, the breadwinner would be bringing in $147.44 per day, and wouldn’t reach the threshold until he or she worked 299 days during the year at the mean wage. Any earnings beyond the 299 day “limit” would disqualify the family for SCHIP assistance under the terms of the DeMint Amendment for which Senator Ensign voted. Thus, it’s equally plausible to argue that the “average” family might be shunted aside by the DeMint provision which is yet another attempt to transform the SCHIP program into a “poverty” bill as opposed to its original working family safety-net intention.

This morning the Senate rejected the McConnell substitute amendment for H.R. 2 (SCHIP) by a 65-32 margin, with two not voting. Senator Reid opposed the measure, Senator Ensign voting in the minority. [roll call 18] This bodes well for the vote on the bill scheduled for 12:10 PM today (ET). H.R. 2 passed the House on January 14, 2009 on a 289 aye, 139 nay, 6 not present vote. Representatives Berkley and Titus voted in favor of the bill, Congressman Heller was opposed. [GovTrack]

No doubt, Senator Ensign and Congressman Heller would have made it off the Titanic.

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Filed under Ensign, Heller, Ledbetter Decision, SCHIP

>Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Passes Senate: Ensign Votes No

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It took several votes and much speechifying, but the U.S. Senate passed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 today on a 61-36 vote. Needless to say, Senator John Ensign (R-NV) was not among the majority who voted in favor of returning federal interpretations of Title VII (Civil Rights Act of 1964), the Age Discrimination Act of 1967, and two other statutes concerning discriminatory compensation to their original intent. Four women from the Republican side of the aisle cast votes in favor of the bill: Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME). Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) also voted in favor of passage. [roll call 14] The affirmative votes from Senators Specter and Hutchison seem especially statesmanlike, since both had amendments defeated in preliminary roll call votes. [SenClerk] This was not the case with Senators Enzi (R-WY), DeMint (R-SC), Isakson (R-GA), and Vitter (R-LA) whose amendments were also defeated, and who voted against final passage.

Senator Ensign hewed to the GOP talking point that the Ledbetter Bill was a “bailout for trial lawyers,” saying “The plan that Democrats are pushing for their lawyer friends will do the exact opposite. It will kill jobs, not create jobs. I believe in ensuring fair pay. I voted for an amendment today that is a better approach because it protects workers who were discriminated against without bringing down small businesses. “I owned a small business. This bill would increase employer costs dramatically, so dramatically that it will crush small businesses across the country. Small businesses simply cannot afford to ‘lawyer up’ and fight back against the lawsuit open season that this bill creates. “All economic recovery comes from small businesses, not large business. History has shown us that. So why would we put policies in place that will harm the economic engine that will drive us out of this downturn? We shouldn’t. “Our country needs more jobs, not more lawsuits.” [Ensign]

The facts don’t quite support Senator Ensign’s contention that reverting to the original interpretation of the statutes will launch a trial lawyers full employment program – in fact, between 1994 and 2004 there have been only four cases in Nevada categorized in the sexual discrimination column in which the plaintiff was successful. One case concerned sexual harassment, one revolved around whether Title VII required a plaintiff to show direct evidence of discrimination in order to get “mixed motive instructions to the jury,” one dealt with sex and racial discrimination, and one only (EEOC v. Sierra Development, 2003) directly related to discriminatory compensation. [WAGE] One case in ten years hardly appears to be the sort of avalanche that might send business owners clamoring to retain a bevy of attorneys.

Facts notwithstanding, trial lawyer bashing has been a hobby horse for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and National Association of Manufacturers for so long that it’s entirely comprehensible that Republican politicians such as Senator Ensign would be loath to give it up.

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>Overnight Express: Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes, etc.

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Nevada Headlines: “Expert: Nevada Mountain (Mt. Tenabo) has been mined for years” [SFC] “Western Shoshone protest Nevada gold mine” [MSNBC] “Governor Gibbons tells Ely ‘tomorrow has caught up with Nevada’” [Ely Times] “Coal fired plant challenged, endorsed” [SJMN] “Big Nevada power line proposed” [SFC]

Equal pay for equal work: Since they can’t very well come out and say they are against equal pay for their wives, daughters, mothers, and aunts, members of the Republican Party in the Senate are gathering to discuss their opposition to the Lily Ledbetter bill because, “it’s the Democrats’ trial lawyer bailout bill…” [TPMDC] Nothing like continuing to take their cues directly from the American Enterprise Institute? Democratic leaders are viewing the debate as a test of Republican obstructionism. If the GOP tries to score political points by introducing non-germane amendments, they’ll be shut out. So far Republicans have introduced two amendments, both on topic. [HuffPo] According to the Senate Calendar, the S. 181, the Ledbetter Bill, will be taken up after Morning Business tomorrow, with 60 minutes for debate prior to a vote on the Hutchison Amendment (No. 25).

Covering the TARP: The House agreed to amendments to the TARP reform bill (H.R. 384) from Rep. Frank (D-MA), Rep. Murphy (D-PA), and Rep. Hinchey (D-NY) and agreed to the final passage of the bill 260-166, with 7 not voting. Representative Berkley (D-NV1) and Representative Titus (D-NV3) voted in favor of the bill; Congressman Heller (R-NV2) voted in opposition. [roll call 26] Related articles: “TARP – the Sequel, … debate over how to spend the second $350 billion of the government rescue program, this time distressed homeowners may get help” [BusWeek] “House passes TARP reform bill” [WashInd] “No easy answers as Obama team faces banking crisis” [IHT]

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? “Cox calls it quits” (SEC) [CompWk] [NYT] President Obama has appointed Elisse Walter as acting chairman. “Suspected NYSE insider trading rose in 2008” [Reuters] “Great Britain: FSA will look wider, starting with banks’ risks, Turner says” [Blmbrg] “Law professors think Fed should monitor systemic risk” [WSJ] GAO Testimony “A Framework for crafting and assessing proposals to modernize the outdated U.S. financial regulatory system” (pdf) And, then there’s Rush Limbaugh whose latest greatest fear is that the reversion of policy on the application of the Freedom of Information Act will allow more journalists and analysts to hold members of the Bush Administration accountable for their actions. The radio comedian seems to have decided that gathering and sharing information is “un-American.” [TP] To top it all off, the warrantless wiretapping of the rest of us by the Bush Administration? It was worse than we might have thought. [Dkos]

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Filed under Ledbetter Decision, Mining, Nevada, Securities Exchange Commission, TARP

>Overnight Express: Under the Radar News Roundup

>Assembled Wisdom: The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 moved a step closer to passing the Senate when a Republican filibuster was broken on a 72-23 vote. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) voted in favor of the motion to invoke cloture on the Motion to Proceed to S. 181; Senator John Ensign voted “no.” [roll call 4]

S.22, the bill to designate lands in the National Wilderness Preservation System, and to authorize programs in the Departments of Interior and Agriculture passed on a 73-21 vote, with Senator Reid voting in favor and Senator Ensign opposed. [roll call 3]

It seems a little sad that after all these years, the House of Representatives would feel it necessary to enact a rules change requiring each standing committee to hold periodic hearings on the topic of waste, fraud, abuse or mismanagement in government programs which that committee authorizes, but enact it they did. The House voted 423-0, with 11 not voting, to approve such a rule. [roll call 18]

Congressman Dean Heller (R-NV2) has a kindred spirit in Iowa 5th District Rep. Steve King, who called the authorization of the SCHIP program, a “victory for illegal immigrants and wealthy families.” [IowaIndp] When did earning $40,000 a year put a family in the “wealthy” category?

While the Congress continues to debate the TARP program, someone should be reading a recent GAO Report: Financial Regulation – A Framework for Crafting and Assessing Proposals to Modernize the Outdated U.S. Financial Regulatory System.

The Federal Election Commission has made the “Comments received – Notice of Public Hearing on Agency Procedures and Processes” available online. The comments from OMBWatch are available in PDF format, as are comments from the Sunlight Foundation. The Sunlight Foundation again makes its case for improved electronic filing procedures, and it would be nice if Senator Ensign would give up his ill advised opposition to electronic filing for Senate races. [Sunlight]

Economic news
: “Senate releases second half of bailout fund” [IHT] “U.S. to inject $20 billion in Bank of America” [IHT] “Toyota cuts North American production” [Reuters] “Consumer prices in U.S. probably posted first annual decrease since 1954” [Blmbrg] “Freddie Mac eviction plans continue during moratorium” [Blmbrg] “Fannie and Freddie force borrowers to waive legal rights: Housing advocates, Congressional leaders call practice abusive” [WashIndp] “Intel Q4 profit plummets 90% meets forecast” [Wired]

Cleaning Up After the Elephants: “New Pentagon rule tightens revolving door: Pentagon officials who participate in costly acquisitions will now need written approval from an agency ethics officers before taking a job with a Defense Department contractor” [Gov Exec] “Eric Holder: Waterboarding is torture” [ChiTrib] “Democrats sneak Net Neutrality rules into stimulus bill” [CNET] “Gitmo database details 799 prisoner’s cases” [ProPub]

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Filed under Economy, elections, Ledbetter Decision, SCHIP, TARP, torture

>Berkley, Titus Support Fair and Equal Pay: Heller Says No

>H.R. 12, the Paycheck Fairness Act, passed the U.S. House of Representatives today on a 256-163 vote. Representatives Berkley (D-NV1) and Titus (D-NV3) voted in favor of the bill, Congressman Heller (R-NV2) voted against it. [roll call 8] The Paycheck Fairness Act requires that differentials in compensation be limited to bona fide factors such as education, training, or experience. The bill would also prohibit employer retaliation for inquiring about, discussing, or disclosing wages of an employee, or another employee in response to a complaint or charge, or in furtherance of a sex discrimination investigation, hearing, or action. [GovTrack]

H.R. 11, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, also passed, by a 247-171 margin in the House of Representatives. Once again, Representatives Berkley and Titus voting in favor of the measure, and Congressman Heller voting in opposition. [roll call 9] The bill: “Amends the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 to declare that an unlawful practice occurs when a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice is adopted when a person becomes subject to the decision or other practice, or when a person is affected by the decision or practice, including each time compensation is paid.” [GovTrack] In short, the legislation returns the interpretation of discriminationary practices back to its original meaning, before the decision in the Ledbetter Case.

Evidently, it is more important to Congressman Heller that one company should avoid an employment discrimination lawsuit than for millions of working women – sisters, daughters, wives, and mothers – to get equal pay for equal work. Thanks in part to Representatives Berkley and Titus, the legislation has once again passed the House, and this time won’t face the Bush Administration’s veto threats; although, the GOP can be expected to mount another filibuster in the Senate.

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Filed under Berkley, Heller, Ledbetter Decision, Titus, Women's Issues