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Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009

January 29, 2009

No, this isn’t a policy blog or a third wave feminist blog.  So why am I posting about the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 that was signed into law today?  Well, we’ve been talking about women as a target audience.  And Lilly’s case resonated with a lot of women.

The new law is to address the outcome of Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, in which the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Goodyear.  Long story short, Lilly was paid less for her work at the tire plant in Alabama than her male colleagues for years.  She was only able to recover damages for disparity in the last 180 days due to the letter of the law.  Her case became a campaign issue and today a campaign promise was fulfilled.

Frank Luntz, Republican strategist and pollster, was on NPR this morning.  He characterized the effect of the negative ad against McCain featuring Ledbetter as “stratospheric”.  He said “It was one of the few effective negative ads in the campaign because it delivered a statement that women looked at and said ‘You know what? This is right.  John McCain, how dare you?'”

I’m not making a political point, although, I’m for fair pay for women.  Ain’t I a woman?  I’m posting this because this ad resonated with women on the right and women on the left.  When we talk about women as a general target audience, finding universal points of agreement can be difficult.  Women aren’t a monolith.  But they agreed that Lilly was treated unfairly.  The strategic imperative to look for the universal truth for resonance comes to mind.

I contemplated Second Wave vs. Third Wave feminism for a few minutes after I heard the story this morning.  Then I got practical.  I wondered about the impact on Goodyear.  Women buy tires.  Women work there.  Their brand will be linked with employment discrimination and the historic moment of the first law signed by President Obama for years to come.  I bought a full set of tires last year at Auto Tire.  I checked to see what brand they were when I got to work this morning.  Suddenly, it mattered to me.  I’m rolling on Michelins.  I caught myself caring and wondered if other women were suddenly engaged in their tires after hearing Lilly’s story.

Goodyear won in court, but have they lost in the court of public opinion?

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