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Public Statements

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009--Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


LILLY LEDBETTER FAIR PAY ACT OF 2009--Continued -- (Senate - January 22, 2009)

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AMENDMENT NO. 31

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The DeMint amendment is now pending.

Mr. DeMINT. Madam President, I am afraid the Ledbetter bill is another example that the majority in the Senate doesn't understand the American economy or how businesses create jobs or how freedom works for all of us to create a better quality of life. Recessions are caused by uncertainty. This bill creates more uncertainty for the very businesses we need to cr eate the jobs and to keep the jobs we have in our country today.

Why would we pass a bill, or even be talking about it, in the middle of a recession, that many have said is the worst we have ever seen in our lifetime? This bill will also create a lot of unintended consequences that will do the exact opposite of what it is intended to do.

I was in business for well over 20 years before I came to Congress. Once you create more liability for hiring a woman or know that liability is going to exist for y ears, employers are going to figure out a way to get around that. This is more likely to discourage the employment and the promotion of women because it creates an indefinite liability.

It seems that a lot of my colleagues have never been in business themselves. I remember being in the advertising business, and I was 1 of 15 account executives. I was about in the middle as far as salary. There were men and women who made less than I did. There were men and women who made more than I did. Some who made m ore than I did had less experience, but because of clients or some other factor--some other intangible--it made them worth more than I was, they were paid more. It was the same with those who made less. I was younger and in some cases less experienced than some of the men and women who made less, but I had demonstrated that I could help our company make a profit more than they had. The market was deciding our salaries. There is no way that anyone in this Senate or any government bureaucrat or Federal judge co uld come in and say that there was discrimination because I was paid less than someone who was making more money or the same with someone who was making less than I was.

For us to intervene and create a permanent liability is only going to create more uncertainty. This is not what we need to do with our businesses. So this whole bill should not even be considered now.

I have an amendment that gets at some of the issues that have been talked about with this bill, about fairness and about discriminati on. One of the biggest forms of discrimination in this country today is when we force an American worker to join a union. My amendment is a right-to-work amendment. Right now in this country, we have a Federal law that forces American workers to join a union. States can pass a right-to-work law, as my State, South Carolina, has to protect their workers, but this has proved very difficult for many States with powerful union bosses and union lobbies. My amendment, which is a national right-to-work amendment, would restore the right of every American not to join a union. It would eliminate the Federal requirement that workers pay union dues.

We are getting ready to hear from some opponents of this amendment that will use some very convoluted logic to defend their position. The same people who support Federal labor laws, including wage requirements that supersede State laws, will argue that my amendment violates States rights. Removing a Federal mandate on States could only violate States rights in the minds of politicians who have lost touch with our constitutional moorings. My amendment is not about States rights. It is not about Federal rights. It is not about business rights. My amendment restores basic unalienable, individual rights.

No law--Federal or State--should force an American to join a union in order to get a job in this country. No law--State or Federal--should allow an American worker to be fired because he or she does not want to join a union. This is about individual rights. There should not be a Federal law that discriminates against workers who choose not to join a union. This is about fairness and about stopping basic discrimination that is sponsored by this Federal Government.

I urge my colleagues to vote for this right-to-work amendment. It is very consistent with the theme of this Ledbetter bill. It is more likely to eliminate discrimination than the Ledbetter bill itself. I urge my colleagues to support it. I will reserve the remainder of my time and ask for a vote.

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Ms. MIKULSKI. I thank the Senator. That clarifies it. I have a question of Senator DeMint. Is the DeMint amendment to Lilly Ledbetter or are you amending another piece of legislation? Could you clarify what your amendment amends?

Mr. DeMINT. The Ledbetter bill.

Ms. MIKULSKI. Does the DeMint amendment amend the Ledbetter bill or the National Labor Relations Act and the Railroad Act? The Ledbetter Act is the pending one.

Mr. DeMINT. Right.

Ms. MIKULSKI. But the consequences are--are n't you amending the National Labor Relations Act? The Ledbetter Act is strictly a wage discrimination bill.

Mr. DeMINT. It is a discrimination and fairness bill, and my bill would change the National Labor Relations Act to remove a mandate on States.

Ms. MIKULSKI. I still have the floor. Madam President, I have the floor.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Maryland has the floor.

Ms. MIKULSKI. I had a question for Senator DeMint, and if the Senator will withhold, after I make my remarks, he can address the Chair.

The consequence of the DeMint amendment is that it amends the National Labor Relations Act. Let me tell my colleagues the consequences. First of all, let's go to the facts.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is about pay discrimination, about wage discrimination. That is what we have been debating on both sides of the aisle. The debate has been focused, it has been targeted, i t has been precise and, I might add, quite civil. It has nothing to do with right-to-work laws. This is not the time nor the place to debate whether we should have a Federal right-to-work law. We need to restore the ability of victims of pay discrimination to pursue justice. If we want to have a debate on a Federal right-to-work law, then I suggest to the Senator from South Carolina that he offer his own bill, let's put it through the committee, and let's vote on it, but let's not bring right-to-work laws i nto the wage discrimination focus of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

So let's go now to the facts or the merits of the amendment being offered by Senator DeMint.

No. 1, it reverses decades of established labor law and addresses the issues that have nothing to do with the Fair Pay Act. The DeMint amendment undermines States abilities to choose wha t labor laws work best for them. That is the point made by the Senator from Tennessee. It would also impose right-to-work laws on workers who do not want them. Federal labor policy has been neutral on right-to-work issues for over 60 years. That means States are free to decide whether they want to impose right-to-work laws. The amendment would impose right-to-work laws on States that do not want them, and it would even impose such laws in the railroad and aviation industry, which has never been subjected to them.

We have debated this issue before. A bipartisan majority of Congress rejected this approach in the 104th Congress, which was in 1996. We had a vote on a similar amendment, and it was defeated 31 to 68. I hope we defeat the DeMint amendment today.

Let's stick strictly to the Lilly Ledbetter discussion. We have been having an excellent discussion all day long.

Again, I urge defeat of the DeMint amendment.

Madam President, how much time do I have remaining, and, of course, answer the que stions of our colleagues as to time.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Maryland has 36 seconds remaining. The other side has 4 minutes 36 seconds remaining.

Ms. MIKULSKI. I reserve the remainder of my time.

Mr. ALEXANDER. Madam President, how much time do I have remaining? I am supposed to have 30 seconds left.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Tennessee has 1 minute 45 seconds.

The Senator from South Carolina.

Mr. DeMINT. Madam President, I think I mentioned some convoluted logic. I appreciate my colleague's civil discussion on this issue, but it is interesting to hear that removing a Federal mandate on States somehow violates States rights.

My colleague from Tennessee described a situation they have in their State--the same situation in South Carolina--where you can have a nonunion shop. People can choose to be in unions or unionize an organization. Workers can decide whe ther they belong to a union. What that is called is freedom. Those are basic rights of Americans. What my amendment would do is restore that freedom for people who live in every State, not just in States where State legislators have been able to overcome union pressure and reestablish that freedom.

This is not about States rights, and this is not about the rights of the Federal Government. It is not about some Federal bureaucrats or what judges decide. Every American should have a right to decide whethe r they are going to join a union. For us to have a law at the Federal level imposed on people around the country that they have to join a union, they have to pay union dues, that employers have a right to fire them if they don't join a union--this is not good for individuals, but it is not good for our country.

A few weeks ago, we had a debate about the American auto industry. Just about every expert recognizes that forced unionization has essentially run them out of business. There is a reason companies are leaving the forced compulsory union States and moving to Tennessee and South Carolina. It is because there is more freedom there. That is what this amendment is about. It is removing a Federal mandate that imposes on the freedom of every American.

It is very relevant to the discussion today. We are talking about fairness. We are talking about discrimination. We are talking about wages. But when we force an American to join a union, take part of their wages and give it to a union, that is not freedo m. I cannot imagine anyone here who thinks through this issue saying it does not have something to do with fairness and discrimination and what we are about as a country. We should have a right to unionize, we should have a right not to unionize, but we should not force an American to join a union and make their job contingent on it. This is much greater discrimination than we are dealing with in this Ledbetter bill, and it is very appropriate, if we are going to talk about fairness in eliminating discrimin ation, that we include this amendment that would restore a basic freedom to every American. That is what this amendment is about, is doing exactly what my colleague from Tennessee said they enjoy there. Why shouldn't they enjoy those same freedoms in Michigan and other States?

I encourage my colleagues to set aside old ways of thinking and partisan politics, payback to unions. This is not about us. It is not about States. It is about people. It is about basic American rights. No American should be force d to join a union.

I urge my colleagues to support this amendment.

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Mr. DeMINT. Madam President, if I may continue, I will use the rest of my time. I want to make sure we are clear.

Again, my good friend from Tennessee has said that somehow this amendment is going to take away the rights of States to have a right-to-work law. This is a right-to-work law. Every State in the country would have a right to work, a right to choose to be union or not to be union. This is not to restrict a State in any way at all.

Right now, if a State wants to be right-to-work, it has to override Federal legislation. Most of us continuously talk about protecting secret ballots of workers. It is Federal legislation, it imposes a law on everyone, but it is protecting the rights of individuals because it is not about unions and it is not about the businesses for which they work. The Secret Ballot Protection Act would protect the individual and their rights. That is what this amendment is about. It is respecting the rights of individuals not to join a union. It does not take away any right from a State; it actually removes a Federal mandate on States.

I appreciate all the time that was given to this discussion. I, again, urge my colleagues to support my amendment.

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