Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lilly Ledbetter Needs to Hit the Gym

This past Thursday, gender equality scored a significant victory but was also made to realize that it has a long way to go.

That morning, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, reversing one of the most asinine, ideologically-based Supreme Court decisions I'd heard in awhile. According to said Court, anybody victimized by wage discrimination had 180 days from the time of their wage being set to file a complaint. That ruling effectively shut down all wage discrimination law suits (which was pretty much the point, wasn't it?). After all, unless you cut your company's checks yourself, sat around constantly asking all your co-workers how much they made, sued your company on a quarterly basis to find out how much everybody at your company made, or your company's wages are published on the internet, who would know they were being discriminated against? And if they ever did find out, it would definitely have been too late thanks to the Roberts' court decision. Fortunately, the new Ledbetter Bill changes all that.

Now, all workers have the right to file suit up to six months after they've received any paycheck from a discriminating employer. Sure, Republicans and business leaders will complain about "frivolous lawsuits," but isn't it better to have those bogus lawsuits than to exclude the legitimate ones from ever going to court?

That very same day in the sports arena, where so many of our civil rights battles have been symbolically and actually fought (Jackie Robinson integrating baseball, Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs, Curt Flood unionizing MLB players, Title 9), Serena Williams advanced to the Australian Open finals (which she won yesterday), catapulting herself to the top of the female athlete prize money list. It was a great day for sistah gal. Her prize money total of $22,753,575 moved her past retired tennis player Lindsay Davenport ($22,144,735) and LPGA wunderkind, Annika Sorenstam ($22,573,192). Obviously, Serena was ebullient:

"I'm thrilled with the news! I remember earning my first cheque of $240 at Quebec City in 1995 and while I knew that I could have a great career in tennis, I could not have imagined or dreamed of all of this. It's amazing how much women's tennis has grown since I joined the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour fourteen years ago. I am very proud to have reached this milestone for me, my family and all women athletes out there. This achievement really shows that if you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything."

As well she should've been. Her $22,753,575 take for a 14-year career is a great accomplishment for Serena, the Williamses, and female athletes the world round. And that 14-year, $22,753,575 take is only $1.5 million shy of Tiger Woods's $22.9 take for 2008!


Do you think Ms. Ledbetter has a 100mph serve?


Shani said...


Sue Jacquette said...

You and my husband should debate this topic. His feeling is that women athletes should not earn the same as men because they do not draw equal crowds (i.e. money). We argue this one all the time.

boukman70 said...

There wouldn't be much debate there, Sue. After the hockey lockout and watching the Penguins almost being driven out of business because athletes were demanding way more money than hockey earned, I believe in your hubby's logic.

I just thought it was weird that the Williamses actually do draw those kinds of numbers. At least in the past (I'm not sure about now), they used to draw better crowds and astronomically better TV ratings than did male tennis, you would've thought their earnings would've been closer to men's earnings than anybody else. And even still, they're way off.