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MN Workers Hail Equal Wage Law

February 2, 2009

St. Paul, MN – Minnesota workers and labor leaders are hailing the "Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act," the first bill signed by President Obama, which expands employees' rights to take pay discrimination cases to court. Eliot Seide, executive director of AFSCME Minnesota Council 5, says it's a win for working people and sends a message to companies who base pay on gender.

"It's time for America’s corporations to step up to the plate, be good Americans, and do their fair share and treat all their workers with dignity and respect in the workplace."

The law was motivated by the case of an Alabama woman, Lilly Ledbetter, who found out, after working nearly two decades at a tire plant, that she was making much less than her male counterparts doing the same job. The Supreme Court ruled that her lawsuit came too late. The new law overturns that decision and extends the statute of limitations. It also covers pay discrimination based on factors such as race, religion and age.

Seide, whose union represents 43,000 state and local government, higher education, and non-profit workers, says it's significant that the pay discrimination act was a priority for the President.

"There's no question that President Obama believes that, in these tough times, workers need more opportunities to get ahead – that he needs to level the playing field for America's workers, who've been discriminated against for so long."

Opponents argued the measure would encourage lawsuits.

Seide says he's also pleased that the President supports the "Employee Free Choice Act," an initiative to help workers form unions without intimidation.

Jim Wishner, Public News Service - MN