Tag Archive: National Organization of Women

Equal Rights Amendment Still Alive

On March 8, 2011, Wisconsin Democratic Representative Tammy Baldwin introduced legislation to eliminate the time restraints for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).   The ERA was originally authored by Alice Paul, head of the National Woman’s Party.  Named the “Lucretia Mott Amendment,” the ERA was introduced in every session of Congress from 1923 to 1970.  According to the National Organization of Women, the amendment finally passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 1971 by a 354-24 vote and was approved by an 84-8 vote in the U.S. Senate.  Article V of the Constitution requires three-fifths of the states to ratify an amendment and the ERA has remained 3 states shy of passage; only 35 of the 38 states needed have approved the measure.

In the 1921 U.S. Supreme Court case Dillon v. Gloss the Supreme Court stated that Congress may place deadlines on an amendment’s ratification.  When the ERA was approved by both houses, Congress placed a 7-year time limit on the ratification.  In 1979 Congress granted a 2-year extension, but by 1982 the ERA still had not receive enough state votes.   The ERA has been reintroduced in every Congressional session since 1982.

In order to bypass the 7-year time constraint placed on the amendment, a new strategy for passage has emerged.  In 1992 the requisite number of states finally ratified “the Madison Amendment,” 203 years after its introduction.  The  Madison Amendment  thus became the 27th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  In a similar move, the new plan for the ERA is to once again introduce the legislation, but eliminate the attached time limit.

Supporters of the ERA state that the “3-State Strategy” could finally aid ERA’s passage.  Without the time limitation, ERA simply needs 3 votes out of the 15 “hold-out” states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

On February 7, 2011, the Virginia State Senate passed a resolution to ratify the ERA.  Virginia could become the 36th state to approve of the measure, leaving proponents with a “2-State Strategy.”

Wal-mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes


The United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Wal-mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes on March 29, 2011.  With 500,000 plaintiffs (reduced from 1.5 million by the 9th Circuit), this case is the largest employment discrimination action under Title VII in U.S. history.   The plaintiffs allege sex discrimination at  3400 Wal-mart stores across the country, specifically claiming  both hourly and salaried wage discrepancies between men and women and the systemic denial of promotions based on gender.   This case has been litigated for 1o years, but the Supreme Court will not decide the merits of the case.  The questions presented to the Court are purely procedural.  The first issue is whether claims for monetary relief can be certified under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2).  The parties were also instructed by the Court to address whether the class certification ordered under Rule 23(b)(2) was consistent with Rule 23(b)(a).

Wal-mart argues, and critics agree, that there is too much variety among the individual members in the action such that they do not constitute a common class by a preponderance of the evidence.  For instance, promotion decisions were made by individual store managers at 3400 different stores and pay rates (and the discrepancies amongst them) vary across the 170 employee positions that the plaintiffs represent.

The National Organization of Women has condemned Wal-mart’s employment practices for years.  Recently, N.O.W. President, Terry O’Neill stated, “First we have banks that are ‘too big to fail’–now Wal-mart’s lawyers are claiming that the company is too big to sue!…Well, guess what?  When you’re the biggest employer in the nation and the richest company in the world, and you get that way by paying unfair wages, you should expect to find yourself on the wrong end of a massive lawsuit one day.”  So far, several fortune 500 companies have filed briefs in support of Wal-mart.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue its decision this summer.

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