As a state senator in Illinois, Obama made sure women got equal pay for equal work.
Michelle Obama on Monday, August 25th, 2008 in her address at the Democratic National Convention.
Obama was there for equal pay, but not alone
The Obama campaign continues trying to bolster its case among female voters, trying to show his record on women's issues.
The candidate's wife took up the task during her convention speech, lauding Barack Obama's work in the Illinois state Senate, where she said he was busy "moving people from welfare to jobs, passing tax cuts for hard-working families, and making sure women get equal pay for equal work."
In this story, we're looking at the final element in Michelle Obama's three-point claim, that what her husband did in the state legislature included "making sure women get equal pay for equal work."
In 2003, the Illinois General Assembly passed a law that gave workers more protection from gender-based pay discrimination than federal law provides. The Illinois law applies to employers with four or more employees, instead of the 15-worker threshold in federal law, allowing more workers to file complaints.
Obama was not the lead sponsor of the bill in the state Senate, but he did co-sponsor it on the day it was introduced. The lead sponsor, Carol Ronen, said Obama was "instrumental" and played a "significant role" in crafting the bill. Ronen, who has also left the state Senate, is a Democratic superdelegate.
The bill passed the Senate easily, on a 53-2 vote, with one member voting present. Obama attended the Mother's Day bill signing with his daughters, said Melissa Josephs, who was also there. Josephs is director of equal opportunity policy at Women Employed, a Chicago-based not-for-profit group that supported the bill.
The bill gave equal-pay protection to an estimated 330,000 additional workers, including some state employees that were not covered under federal law, Josephs said. Since it became law, the state has investigated more than 300 cases, and workers have received more than $91,000 in back pay. Let's come back to Michelle Obama's statement. Did Barack Obama make sure women get equal pay for equal work? Well, sort of. It's always difficult to judge the contribution of any single lawmaker in passage of an individual piece of legislation, and we recognize that the person best situated to answer that question here is currently supporting Obama's presidential campaign.
Still, there are enough details to reach a reasonable conclusion. Obama was an early co-sponsor of the legislation, and his appearance for the bill signing supports the contention that he considered it a priority. Obama helped pass a law that expanded equal-pay protections, though that doesn't necessarily guarantee equal pay. Although he wasn't the architect of the policy, he was more than a bit player. Michelle Obama's statement is Mostly True.
Published: Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 at 12:00 a.m.
Interview with Melissa Josephs of Women Employed, Aug. 26, 2008
Interview with former Illinois state Sen. Carol Ronen, Aug. 26, 2008
Interview with Beth Spencer, communications director of the Illinois AFL-CIO, Aug. 26, 2008
Illinois General Assembly, Bill summary and legislative history
Office of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Press release on equal pay law
Illinois Department of Labor, Description of Equal Pay Act
We want to hear your suggestions and comments.
For tips or comments on our Obameter and our GOP-Pledge-O-Meter promise databases, please e-mail the Obameter. If you are commenting on a specific promise, please include the wording of the promise.For comments about our Truth-O-Meter or Flip-O-Meter items, please e-mail the Truth-O-Meter. We’re especially interested in seeing any chain e-mails you receive that you would like us to check out. If you send us a comment, we'll assume you don't mind us publishing it unless you tell us otherwise.
Keep up to date with Politifact:
- Sign up for our e-mail (about once a week)
- Put a free PolitiFact widget on your blog or Web page
- Subscribe to our RSS feeds on Truth-O-Meter items
- Subscribe to our RSS feeds on GOP Pledge-O-Meter items
- Subscribe to our RSS feeds on Obameter items
- Advertise on PolitiFact
- Shop the PolitiFact store for T-shirts, hats and other PolitiFact swag