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First US law on equal pay

First US law on equal pay

President Barack Obama signed his first piece of legislation before a cheering crowd of women union workers in the White House last month. The new law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, gives women the right to equal pay when they do the same job as men.

With the President, as the legislation was being signed, was Lilly Ledbetter, the woman after whom the new law was named because of her equal-pay crusade against the Goodyear Tyre company.

Mrs Ledbetter, 70, discovered, after 19 years working at a Goodyear plant in Alabama, that she had been paid significantly less than men at the factory who did the same job. She found out that she was the lowest-paid supervisor there, despite having more qualifications and experience than some of them. She sued, but the US Supreme Court ruled that she had waited too long to bring her lawsuit.

Mrs Ledbetter’s case became a cause célèbre, especially after Republicans in Congress – including John McCain, Barack Obama’s presidential opponent – blocked efforts by Democrats to pass an equal-pay law.

A lifelong Republican, she even filmed an advertisement for Mr Obama during the White House campaign, decrying Mr McCain’s move to stop her getting what she claimed was more than $200,000 (£140,000) in lost salary, and even more in pension benefits.

After hugging Mrs Ledbetter – whom the President got to know well on the campaign trail – Barack Obama said: “It is fitting that the very first Bill that I sign, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, is upholding one of this nation’s founding principles: that we are all created equal, and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness.”

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