Tina Kakadelis
YA Author

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Burn Before Reading: A Carly Allen Story

Equal Pay for Everyone

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Ladies, ladies, ladies. Where would we be without ya? Honestly, though, where would we be without them?

Yesterday was Equal Pay Day and, yes, while we still have leagues upon leagues to go on the matter, it's always nice to learn about the ladies who kicked ass before us.

So, the fight for equal pay. Where did it all begin? Let's go back to good ole 1883, when ladies caused communication to come to a standstill. Workers from the Western Union Telegraph Company went on strike to protest unfair wages. The strike didn't really change anyone's mind because it was 1883 and slavery had just ended and white dudes couldn't handle that much reform, but it was the first large public display of women speaking up about this issue.

There's this really good book called When Everything Changed by Gail Collins. It's about the path of the women's rights movement from the 1960s through the mid-2000s. One of the first stories Gail tells is about a woman (if I hadn't lost my copy of the book somewhere in the middle of America, I'd be able to give you more details) who worked at a telephone (maybe? I'm sorry) company. She applied for a promotion, but lost out to a man who was nowhere near as qualified as she was. The next day, she went to work and refused to lift whatever contraption (I know, I'm terrible) she was supposed to onto her desk. Why, you ask? It weighed more than the job requirements said she had to be able to lift. Her boss promptly fired her. The book is filled with a million and one stories like this, so definitely give it a read.*

Let's fast forward a couple of years to my man, Barack Obama. The first bill he signed was the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Lilly worked at Goodyear Tire from 1979 until she retired in 1998. She sued Goodyear because she was paid, you guessed it, a hell of a lot less than her male coworkers. Shock of the day! She earned $3,727 per month, and the lowest-paid male coworker earned $4,286 per month. This was despite her seniority and experience. When Lilly tried to right some wrongs, her lawsuit made it all the way to the Supreme Court. The court denied her complaint because she didn't file until after the 180-day statute of limitations had expired. She didn't even know she was being cheated during that 180-day period! How was she supposed to complain?

The bill President Obama signed added a little more wiggle room to the 180-day statute of limitations. Did Lilly get the compensation she deserved? Of course not, because inequality runs rampant in America. There's the U.S. Women's Soccer team and the U.S. Women's Hockey team. And the fact that women get paid less than men, and women of color get paid less than white women. I could go on and on about pay inequality, but I have to send this to my mother editor before 8:00 p.m. so it will make sense to you. It is now 7:58.

Equality is the finish line, and we have to remember that understanding intersectionality is the only thing that will get us there. The experiences of white women fighting for equality are markedly different from the experiences of women of color fighting for equality. Things are different for women who are straight, gay, transgender, rich, poor, educated, and uneducated. The list is long. We have to learn and listen to each other. Let people who have experienced the inequalities at hand have the megaphone. Let their voices be the loudest in room. Use whatever privilege we have to help those around us. The only way we're going to get there is if we work together.

 

 

 

*You know who else wrote a book? This kid. Plz support my online shopping addiction.