More than 10 years ago, Stephanie Odle made her then-three-year-old daughter a promise. Odle, one of the named plaintiffs in Dukes v. Wal-Mart -- a historic lawsuit that charges the nation's largest employer of sex discrimination in pay and promotions -- told her daughter that she "was never going to have to go through what I had to go through." This past March, Odle and her daughter, now 14 years old, were together in Washington D.C. as the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case, the largest civil rights class action lawsuit in the country's history. "We did make a difference," Odle says in a short new video that highlights the positive impact the case has made.
The women of Wal-Mart are very much like you and me. They are like our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, and they were systematically deprived of equal pay and opportunities in ways that not only affected them, but also their families. These women decided to fight back, and what has emerged over the subsequent years as this case worked its way through the courts is their unbreakable courage. That courage has awakened the strength of women's collective voices across the country -- voices calling for equal treatment now.
The U.S. Supreme Court will issue its decision at any moment as to whether this important case should move forward as a class. Its decision not only will impact some two million women working for Wal-Mart across the country but also whether people facing injustice can assert their rights as a group moving forward. A decision is imminent, but regardless of what the court rules, the struggle for equality will continue. The court will not decide whether Wal-Mart in fact discriminated against these women but only what vehicle we must use to pursue their rights. The vehicle might be uncertain at this point in time, and whatever roadblocks we encounter will not be attributable to any lack of righteousness in our cause, but rather to structural inequalities inherent in our legal system. This much is clear: ERA will continue to stand behind these women and advocate for equal pay and promotions based on merit. Equality is an ideal this country was founded on and it is the ideal Equal Rights Advocates will pursue until the end, whatever the end is.
As Betty Dukes, the woman at the center of this case says in the video, Wal-Mart already has made several improvements for women working throughout the company. The women of Wal-Mart have forced a process of fundamental change within the company's corporate culture that otherwise would not have been possible. "We have been effective since we filed our suit," Betty says. And we thank her for it.
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