In Debate, McCain Had Joe the Plumber, Obama Had Lilly Ledbetter

The 70-year-old Alabama woman lost a gender pay-discrimination suit in the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Joe the Plumber might be getting all the attention after John McCain repeatedly mentioned the Ohio plumber Joe Wurzelbacher during last night's debate against Barack Obama, but Obama had his own story to tell about Lilly Ledbetter from Alabama.

"Senator McCain and I disagreed recently when the Supreme Court made it more difficult for a woman named Lilly Ledbetter to press her claim for pay discrimination," Obama said. "When she brought a suit, saying equal pay for equal work, the judges said, well, you know, it's taken you too long to bring this lawsuit, even though she didn't know about it until fairly recently. We tried to overturn it in the Senate. I supported that effort to provide better guidance to the courts. John McCain opposed it."

Ledbetter, 70, a former supervisor for an Alabama Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plant, lost her gender pay-discrimination suit more than a year ago in the U.S. Supreme Court.

She spoke with U.S. News last spring, saying, "The way I understand it, I was treated like a second-class citizen for my 19 years and 10 months at Goodyear—as well as into my retirement."

She added, "It's a big hardship. I'm not bitter."

In the debate, McCain defended his vote on the bill Obama mentioned. "Obviously, that law waived the statute of limitations, which you could have gone back 20 or 30 years. It was a trial lawyer's dream."