GOP presidential candidate John McCain is saying it’s fine with him if women never get justice for pay discrimination they suffer on the job.

Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama left their campaign trails and flew to Washington April 23 to vote for the Fair Pay Restoration Act. McCain didn’t bother to show up for the vote but said, had he taken the trouble, he would have voted against it.

The Senate vote was four short of the 60 needed to advance the bill, which would have allowed women who are paid less than men doing the same work to challenge the discrimination. Unlike McCain, five Republicans voted with Democrats 56-42 to move the bill to full debate and passage.

“I am in favor of pay equity for women, but this kind of legislation, as is typical of what’s being proposed by my friends on the other side of the aisle, opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems,” McCain said. He complained that the measure would mean “government playing a much, much greater role in the business of a private enterprise system.” Advocates for fairness on the job say that’s exactly the point.

The Fair Pay Restoration Act, also called the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, would have reversed a 2007 Supreme Court ruling dismissing a suit by Lilly Ledbetter, a 19-year employee at a Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. plant in Alabama. She had sued because she was paid less than her male counterparts.

The Supreme Court said she did not file her lawsuit within 180 days after the discrimination occurred, as required by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But the court actually let Goodyear off the hook by calculating the deadline from the day Goodyear hired Ledbetter rather than from the date on which she had received her last discriminatory paycheck. The bill McCain helped block would have removed the 180-day limit.

Ledbetter filed her lawsuit when she did because she didn’t know for many years that she was earning far less than her male colleagues. The Supreme Court ruling ignored the reality at many workplaces, where even discussing pay with colleagues is a fireable offense.

Saying McCain let down millions of women who are fighting for what they deserve, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney declared, “It’s appalling that women continue to earn less than men even though statistics show they are better educated. It’s time for Sen. McCain and the Senate Republican leadership to stop making excuses and take long overdue action to rectify this injustice.”

McCain’s statement opposing the Fair Pay Restoration Act came just days after he stood outside a failing factory in Ohio to announce his support of the North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade deals that put corporate interests above the needs of workers watching as companies send their jobs overseas.

McCain stated his opposition to the fair pay bill while he campaigned in Inez, Ky., located in the state’s rural eastern section. Poverty, especially among women, is rampant in that area. McCain told voters in Inez that he was “familiar with the wage disparity between men and women but there are better ways to help women find better paying jobs. They need education and training, particularly since more and more women are heads of their households, as much or more than anybody else.”

However it is as difficult to find training funds in McCain’s program as it is to find jobs for which workers can be trained.

According to a report by the Center for American Progress, McCain has proposed more than $300 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy and, going even further than President Bush, says he will pay for these tax cuts by “cutting spending.”

The report notes that for McCain to keep the military funded at its present levels and to pay for his handouts to the rich, he would have to cut 40 percent from all domestic programs, including education and training projects.