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Public Statements

Designating Certain Land As Components Of The National Wilderness Preservation System

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Designating Certain Land As Components Of The National Wilderness Preservation System

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Ms. CANTWELL. Mr. President, I rise to join in the discussion about this important legislation and to thank the dean of our women Senate delegation, the Senator from Maryland, for her steadfast support of this legislation and continuing to make sure that people are aware of the urgency of passing this legislation. I also thank my colleague, Senator Murray, also on the HELP Committee, who has been working on this legislation, along with Senator Clinton who was an original sponsor.

Last year I had the opportunity to attend a rally where I met these three young Americans: Gussie, Sofia, and Leo. I thought their story was compelling because they made their own signs and talked about how they will work for justice. Their plan to talk about discrimination and the difference in pay equity on this particular day was to walk around the street corners begging for 23 cents. They were doing that to show that this was the difference between what women get paid and what men get paid for doing the exact same job. This young generation of Americans wants to grow up in a world where they know there is going to be equal pay for equal work.

I would like to tell them that the Senate has acted on this legislation and moved forward. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court didn't share that view. I took delight in our hometown newspaper actually saying the Supreme Court kicked female workers in the teeth with their 2007 ruling and that what was important was restoring average Americans' right to justice as a good place to start undoing the damage that has already been done.

This issue is so important to women because the legacy of this injustice means not just on average we make 77 cents for every dollar our male counterpart can make in a job, but we stand to lose up to $250,000 in income over our lifetime because of this injustice. Those are real dollars.

At a time of great economic uncertainty, when every penny counts, it is more important that we close the gap between what women and men earn in the workplace.

Last year we saw more jobs lost than in any other year since World War II, and the unemployment rate has climbed to 7.2 percent. In contrast to previous recessions, we are seeing early signs that women are being especially hard hit because of the economic downturn.

So we want to make sure, that as unemployment numbers rapidly rise, those women who are still in the workforce are going to get the same pay as their male counterparts.

In 2007, women's median wage fell by 3 percent. But during that same time period, the average decline for men was only about .5 percent. So we can see that our economy and how women are being impacted is impacting individual families. So I am here to urge my colleagues to support the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act--a piece of legislation that will help us close this gap of injustice and help these young people understand they are going to grow up in a society where there is faith and justice and fairness.

As my colleague from Washington said, this bill is about gender discrimination, but it also extends to claims of pay discrimination based on race, national origin, religion, disability, and age. That is why I think it should be a top priority for us, and I am sure it is a top priority for many civil rights groups across our country.

But this bill, as my colleagues have already discussed, will allow workers to file pay discrimination claims as long as the discrimination continues. A worker's ability to challenge unequal pay should continue as long as the discrimination is there. So it is their most recent discriminatory paycheck that will be the trigger for allowing them to file a case.

Now, I ask my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who have not supported this legislation in the past to now come to the aid of helping this legislation get to the President's desk.

A few years ago, we had a similar case with the Supreme Court dealing with identity theft. The Supreme Court had interpreted a case to say that the statute of limitation for a consumer harmed by identity theft to file a lawsuit to recover from financial harm is 24 months from when it first occurred rather than when the consumer discovered it. Many of us came and made the case, through the legislative process, that sometimes you do not know when your identity has been stolen, and the consequence of that is sometimes by the time the statute of limitations had run out, you did not have a chance to bring your case.

Well, we did something about that. We passed the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act that helped create a framework that said that at the time of discovery of the act of your identity being stolen was the time the statute of limitations started to run--very similar to what we are trying to do here. In fact, it was in response to a Supreme Court case in which the U.S. Congress said: We do not like the Supreme Court's decision. It might be based on the law, but let's change the law and make sure there is justice for those who have had their identity stolen. That legislation passed 95 to 2.

It is a similar principle here. We are saying some individuals do not know that discrimination has happened. We want to change the law to say that the most recent paycheck that established discrimination gives you the ability to bring up the case.

So I would ask my colleagues, if you were willing to support the previous legislation, the same kind of scenario dealing with identity theft, why are you not willing to give the same kind of justice to women who are trying to get equal pay for the equal work that they are doing?

I hope my colleagues will take the opportunity, now that the Supreme Court has put this ball in our court, to create a fair and equitable process and pass this legislation as soon as possible.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from Maryland is recognized.

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