Thank you very much to the President. Thank you to the Senator from Maryland for her great leadership. She's wearing red for a reason, because that is the color to get this done. I will always remember this vote by senator Mikulski taking to the floor the last time we came so close to passing it, when she  said "to the women of America: suit up, square your shoulders, put your lipstick on. We're ready for a revolution." I also enjoyed hearing the comments from my colleague from Washington. I thought the analogy of the identity case where sometimes people have a wrong done to them, whether it is discrimination or identity theft, and it is literally impossible for them to know it happened until sometimes years later, that's what happened -- and that's what happened to Lilly Ledbetter. I'm proud to join with Senator Mikulski and my fellow women Senators and fellow democrats and others who are here today to call for the senate to take up and pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act.

The timing of the vote on this legislation, which is tomorrow, could not be more appropriate. We all know that our nation is in the midst of a financial and economic crisis of historic proportions with Americans facing record job losses and the largest loss of wealth since the Great Depression. And we know that working families and women are bearing the brunt of this crisis. Since 2000 these figures are before we had literally this meltdown in the last few months. Since 2000, the average family income in America has gone down $1,175 per year when adjusted for inflation.  At the same time, the average family’s expenses have gone up $4,500 per year.  This includes higher mortgage payments, higher phone costs, higher heating costs, higher gas costs higher health care costs.  So the bottom line is that the average middle class family has suffered a net annual income loss of $5,500 dollars a year and that is not including all the losses to 401(K) funds and pension funds.  All the losses due to the expenses of child care and everything else that’s been going on the past few months.
These aren't just statistics, Mr. President. I saw this when I was home over December. I saw it in the eyes of a woman at a cafe near Litchfield, Minnesota, who called me over to her table and said that she was taking a break from being a waitress because she is doing three jobs and got her hours cut back from her third job and that was the money she was going to use to buy her grandkids Christmas presents. The letters we received in our office from parents who said they put their three daughters to bed and then go sit at the kitchen table and think how are we going to make this. The woman who wrote to us and said she got a small amount of inheritance from her father and she planned to use it for her daughter's wedding and she now was using it to pay for her own retirement because her 401(k), he retirement funds had decreased so dramatically. These are stories of women, real women in Minnesota, and no one has felt the impact of this economic downturn, the loss in income and the rising costs more than the working women in America. It is often being said that things have changed a lot for women in this country, and they have. It wasn't too long ago we didn't have the right to vote. It wasn't too long ago that my colleague from Maryland, Senator Mikulski, was the only woman in this chamber. Now we have 17 of us. It wasn't too long ago I was kicked out of public fourth grade for wearing bell-bottom pants to school. I went home and changed, Mr. President, and returned without missing much of my classes. A true story by Mrs. Coite.  It is a sad reality that 88 years after the 19th amendment gave women equal voting power and 45 years after the passage of the equal pay act, that it still takes women 16 months to earn what men can earn in 12 months. When I was traveling around my state and talked to the women around my state, I find these women aren't looking for a handout. All they're asking for is a fair and equal chance to make a decent living. That is why it is so important that the senate take up the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act on the floor this week. This important legislation will reverse a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, Ledbetter v. Goodyear that significantly limited the rights of individuals to sue for gender-based discrimination. The facts that give rise to Lilly Ledbetter have been told, but I think they should be told again. She was a hard worker. People can picture her. A delightful person. She worked at Goodyear tire as a manager for 20 years. When she started, all the employees at the manager level started at the same pay. Early in her tenure as manager, the company went to a -- quote -- "merit-based" pay system. 

Payment records were kept confidential as they are in many companies. And Lilly didn't think to ask what her male colleagues were making. She didn't think to look at her pay raise and ask if the men in her department were getting the same. The day the paychecks came out, I don't think many people think about running around and asking their colleagues if they're getting the same amount of money for the same work. As the years passed by the differential kept getting bigger. It was only after getting an anonymous note from a coworker telling her that she wasn't paid as much as the male managers, that she finally realized what was happening. Soon after getting that note, she filed a legal complaint, but that was many, many years after the discrimination began. At trial, Lilly Ledbetter was easily able to prove discrimination. She could show what she did. She could show what the men did. And she could show the difference in pay. In fact, the jury found sex discrimination counted for a pay differential as great as 25% between Lilly and her male counterparts. You think about how that adds up over 20 years of working. However, Goodyear appealed the jury's ruling, and the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision decided that Lilly filed her case too late. Essentially, they ruled that she would have had to file within 180 days of Goodyear making its first discriminatory act.

You ask how would she have known this unless she was nosey and looking at other people's paycheck. But this is what the court said. Although the decision completely ignores the realities of the workplace that employee records are confidential, that there is no reasonable way to know when discrimination starts, we now have an opportunity to bring the realities to light. We should pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and allow a claim to be filed as long as the paychecks reflecting discrimination continue to be issued. In doing so, we will restore the original intent of the civil rights act and the equal pay act. Women cannot be expected to challenge practices they do not know are happening. By passing this law, women will be able to take those four months back, those extra months it takes them, to catch up with their male counterparts. This legislation is critical in the fight for equality for women in the workplace, but there is still a long way to go. I'm honored to be the first woman elected to the United States senate from the state of Minnesota, and today I’m humbled to work with my women colleagues in the senate in this effort to advance equality for women across the country. Last week we welcomed two new women to the senate, and I see one of them here: my colleague from New Hampshire, Senator Shaheen, bringing our current total to 17.
Although our dear friend and champion on these issues, Senator Clinton, will soon be leaving us. Passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act will be a sendoff to Senator Clinton who dedicated her life towards to working towards equality for women. It would also be a fitting tribute to Senator Mikulski in her cry though square up your shoulders, suit up, put your lipstick on and get this bill passed. And it would be a great tribute to Senator Kennedy. If he were here on the floor with us at this moment, I know that he too would be saying, get this done, pass this legislation, in his booming voice. So I implore my colleagues for Senator Clinton, for Senator Kennedy, for Senator Mikulski, but most importantly, for the working women of America, that we pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.