From the White House blog, Sunday, “Now Comes Lilly Ledbetter”
President Obama has long championed this bill and Lilly Ledbetter’s cause, and by signing it into law, he will ensure that women like Ms. Ledbetter and other victims of pay discrimination can effectively challenge unequal pay.
Unfortunately, the Ledbetter bill (S. 181) does far more than “correct” the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber, as we’ve documented at length at Shopfloor.
The White House website has so far offered little news or other interesting new information; by just being posted, the Ledbetter commentary represents a strong statement.
Senate Democratic leadership pushed through the Ledbetter bill last week, eschewing committee meetings and arranging the mostly partyline defeat of amendments to make the bill the true “narrow fix” of the court’s ruling, rather than an invitation to a flood a litigation.
Why such a push?
Organized labor rallied around the Ledbetter legislation in its campaigns against business and the U.S. Supreme Court last year, using it as an effective issue to mobilize political support with. After the Employee Free Choice Act, Ledbetter was one of the second, but still very high tier of issues for labor.
Democratic leaders in Congress (see comments by George Miller, Nancy Pelosi) are signaling that the Employee Free Choice Act has been put on the back burner. As Sam Stein at the Huffington Post reports, “There is a bubbling concern among officials in the labor community that Barack Obama will not act on their most cherished legislative item within the next year.”
The White House is certainly not sending strong signals about the need for quick action on EFCA. Usually, when a nominee goes up to the Senate for a confirmation hearing, the candidate will have a good understanding of where the White House stands on key issues. Yet Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA), nominated for Secretary of Labor, was unable to provide any clear response to Senators’ questions about the Employee Free Choice Act. (Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post had a good column on Solis’ difficulties, “Hearings and Evasions.“) We read that as an expression of internal White House disagreement…or uncertainty…or too many other things on the plate right now.
So no Employee Free Choice Act anytime soon. You can understand, then, the quick passage of the Ledbetter bill as a consolation prize for organized labor, as well as a political message: Hang in there with us.