As Rosa DeLauro took a stand for equal pay on a national stage, a woman who toiled in a New Britain hardware factory sang out a mighty "all right!"
Shirley Black, a 72-year-old New Britain councilwoman, was one of the two dozen Connecticut delegates who got to the Time Warner Cable Arena in time Tuesday to see Connecticut U.S. Rep. DeLauro of New Haven take the stage on the first night of the Democratic National Convention here.
DeLauro stepped up to the podium at around 7:25 p.m. Tuesday along with a line of House women. Their task: argue why women need to reelect President Barack Obama, as women's issues take center stage in the run-up to the November contest against Republican nominee Mitt Romney. Democrats are hoping to maintain a wide gender-gap advantage over Romney excaerbated by some Republicans' (including running mate Paul Ryan's) calls for banning abortion even in cases of rape and incest.
Black stood up in the stands to applaud DeLauro.
"I'm Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, and we have work to do. America's women still make just 77 cents for every dollar men earn," DeLauro said.
"It's even tougher for women of color," DeLauro said.
"That's right," Black attested.
Black, who's from Georgia, has lived in New Britain for the past 50 years. She spent 39 years working in the hardware factory, making screws and doorknobs for Corbin Ruswwin. She was part of a union, so she got regular raises. But she said the men still made more than she did for the same work. She said men made up to $18 to $20 per hour, while she never broke $15 an hour.
"Those pennies add up to a real difference to middle-class families: trying to pay their bills, trying to get ahead, trying to achieve the American dream," DeLauro said.
Black nodded. She retired in 2002 from the factory. Her husband died 12 years ago, so she's been supporting herself since then.
"We've been making progress," DeLauro said. "The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, to give victims of pay discrimination their day in court, was the first bill President Obama signed into law.
"Yeah! All right! " cried Black.
"Now we want to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act: real protections to ensure equal pay for equal work. The Democratic women of the House are committed to closing the wage gap for American families to move America forward," DeLauro said.
"I'm retired, but I still say, "Yeah!'" Black said. She said she hadn't heard the details of the act, but she supports the concept.
Black called DeLauro's speech "fantastic." She said if the Republicans beat President Obama in November, women will be at risk--especially seniors like her who rely on Medicare and Social Security.
"I don't want no voucher to get my medicine," she said. "I can't afford to pay a whole bunch of money" for medications.
She said the Social Security safety net needs to be retained: "I want to live comfortably. We'll lose that if we lose Obama."