A woman’s work is never done: A new economic agenda

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Marilyn Watkins, Policy Director at the Economic Opportunity Institute

Women’s work is central to our economy. Most households couldn’t make ends meet without women’s income. Yet, women make less than men across every occupation. Because employers find ways to pay women less, families struggle to pay their bills, and can’t save for education or retirement.

To reach the same income the typical white man makes in 12 months, White women in the U.S. have to work full time until March of the following year, Black women to mid-July, and Latina women to October – of the second year!

Three bills before Washington’s State Legislature would strengthen finances in households all across our state by giving women a better chance for equal pay. The Democratic-controlled House has passed bills to raise the state minimum wage to $12 over four years, assure all workers can earn paid sick leave, and help women achieve equal pay. But all three could die in the Republican-controlled Senate. Of course, fair wages for women along with a higher minimum wage and access to sick leave, will boost incomes for men, too, but these are especially women’s issues.

The Equal Pay Opportunity Act, House Bill 1646, targets the gender pay gap by protecting the right of workers to talk about wages and job opportunities, so women can find out if they are being paid less or passed over for promotion. Even though pay discrimination based on gender has been illegal in Washington State since 1943, many employers prohibit employees from discussing pay. And many employers make culturally based assumptions about women’s capability for leadership, complex assignments, or traditionally male jobs.

Women in high tech complain about being passed over for promotions and having their ideas appropriated by men. In groceries, nine in ten meat cutters are men, while most deli workers are women. Guess which job pays more? The Equal Pay Opportunity Act will protect freedom of speech about compensation and require that differences in pay and career opportunities be based on job-related factors such as education or experience, not on perceptions about gender roles.

So far, none of our state’s major corporations have had to take a public position on the bill. It’s been largely ignored in the news media , so corporate lobbyists can whisper their position quietly to legislators.

Women are the majority of low wage workers. Some occupations that require skill and are important to society – like childcare and home healthcare – pay very little because they are deemed “women’s work.” Women also take home less than men in restaurants and retail jobs. Raising the minimum wage, as House Bill 1355 proposes, gives low wage workers and their families greater economic security, keeps people in jobs longer, and puts that money right back into neighborhood businesses.

southseaLimited access to paid sick leave is also a women’s issue. Mothers are more likely than fathers to have to stay home with a sick child. Six in 10 of those moms get no paid sick leave when they do. About 1 million workers in Washington don’t get a single day of paid sick leave. They have to make the tough choice of working sick or when their ill child needs them – or losing pay, and maybe risking their job.

When sick people can’t stay home, they spread their germs to the rest of us. Sick workers are also less productive and more prone to accidents, and sick kids can’t learn. Assuring that all workers can earn a few days sick and safe leave, as House Bill 1356 will, protects public health, keeps families economically stable, and enables domestic violence victims to seek safety. We also know from the successful laws in Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, and other cities and states that businesses thrive with paid sick days laws.

These three bills help businesses as well as families by helping companies retain trained workers, maximizing the abilities and contributions of all employees, and gaining new customers. These policies also help the state budget. Additional income for families means less reliance on public services and more money flowing through the economy producing tax revenue. Moreover, healthier kids with more stable lives will do better in school and in later life.

So why wouldn’t these great policies sail right through the Senate? That’s a good question to ask your state senator. You can send a brief message to your district legislators through the in-state toll-free Hotline number: 800-562-6000, or find your legislators’ contact information at here.

Via the South Seattle Emerald

A big vote on paid sick days, minimum wage coming up for Washington’s working families

olympia springtimeThis past week, I heard Lilia, a working mom, testify to legislators in Olympia that even with two jobs, she has to remind her teenage sons to limit themselves to one glass of milk — because she can’t afford to buy more.

Another mother, Bianca, testified her job did not provide sick leave. She ended up quitting after her son became seriously ill.

That’s simply unacceptable. And it doesn’t have to be this way.

As early as next week, your legislator will cast their vote on two bills that will boost our state’s economy by protecting the economic security and improving the health of thousands of Washington families:

It’s common sense: our economy is stronger when our families are more secure. A higher minimum wage means fewer kids going hungry or staying home alone sick, and more women able to save for their family and future. Ensuring everyone has access to paid sick days means people can care for themselves or a loved one, without fear of losing wages.

Please take a minute today to ensure families like Bianca’s and Lilia’s don’t fall through the cracks any more. Urge your state representative to pass a $12 minimum wage and paid sick days for Washington!

Together, we can create change for working families. Thank you!

~Marilyn, Gabriela and the entire team at the Washington Work and Family Coalition

WA legislature takes a step toward paid sick days — here’s what’s next

You helped pack the room on Monday for the Paid Sick Days (HB 1356) bill hearing. Legislators heard passionate testimony from a school nurse, a grocery worker, a small business owner, a domestic violence advocate and a senior — all speaking to the importance of every worker having paid sick days.

And just this morning (Jan. 29), the House Labor Committee voted to pass the bill out of committee!

Here’s the next crucial step: the House Appropriations Committee will consider whether to send the bill to the full House for a vote. Please click here to send an email urging committee members to support Washington workers by moving paid sick days to the full House for a vote!

Your action today will help ensure over 1 million workers in Washington state can earn paid leave to care for themselves or a loved one – including 170,000 people working in accommodation and food service, 167,000 in retail and 93,000 in health care and social assistance.

More great news!

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Healthy Tacoma supporters turned out in force to show their support for a strong paid sick days ordinance to Tacoma’s City Council

  • There’s another important committee hearing coming up — if you’re in Olympia, please sign in support of the Equal Pay Opportunity Act (HB 1646), to be heard on Monday, February 2 at 1:30 pm.
  • And finally, a big congratulations to our sister coalition Healthy Tacoma! Thanks to their two years of hard work, on Monday Tacoma’s City Council passed a Paid Sick and Safe Leave ordinance that will cover all workers in the city starting February 2016!

Show WA legislators you support Paid Sick Days and Paid Family Leave!

leave bank and stethoscopeTwo bills to improve economic security for Washington’s working families are off to a strong start in the 2015 legislature:

1. Paid Sick Days, to ensure everyone working in Washington can earn paid sick days on the job (HB 1356/SB 5306)

2. Family and Medical Leave Insurance funding and expansion which will (finally!) make paid family leave available to Washington workers and their families (HB 1273).

The paid sick days bill has unprecedented support with 43 sponsors, and the family leave insurance bill has similarly strong support — but there’s one thing missing: you!

Both bills are both scheduled for hearings next week — can you come to Olympia to show strong citizen support for either one (or both) of these bills?:

  • Paid Sick Days: Monday, January 26, 1:30-3:30 p.m. – Hearing Room B, John L. O’Brien building, Olympia
  • Family Leave: Thursday, January 29, 8:00-10:00 a.m. – Hearing Room D, John L. O’Brien building, Olympia

Can you be there? If so, please click here to tell us you’re coming.

If you’re not able to make it, we understand – but there’s still a way you can help: tell us about a time when you or a loved one really needed paid sick days or family leave insurance, but didn’t have it. Or a time when you had leave, and really relied on it to keep yourself or your family healthy.

Legislators are bombarded by facts and figures every day; it’s the personal stories that really resonate with them. Let’s make sure they won’t forget why paid sick days and family leave insurance matter so much to Washington families!

Thank you – hope to see you there!

Guess who’s leading on leave? (Hint: Not us)

By Secretary of Labor Tom Perez

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Tom Perez, 26th Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor

I spent last week in Melbourne, Australia representing our government at a meeting of Labor Ministers of the world’s 20 major economies.

After sitting down with my G20 counterparts and learning more about their policies relating to work and workplaces, my main takeaway is that the United States is distressingly behind the curve on paid family leave.

It’s incomprehensible to me that we’re the only industrialized nation without a national paid leave law of any kind. How can we say we’re for family values when so many women in the United States have to jeopardize their livelihood to take a few weeks off from work after giving birth? Should a man have to sacrifice his economic security to take care of his sick mother or his wife returning wounded from active duty?

Our global partners have figured this out, building a solid consensus around these issues. They’ve taken partisanship and ideology out of the debate to recognize this for what it is – a 21st century economic imperative. They’ve discovered that paid leave, child care and similar policies increase our human capital by bringing more women into the labor force. They know it’s possible to have a growing economy, thriving businesses and family-friendly workplaces. They’ve realized we have to give people the tools to be productive employees and attentive parents – the two aren’t mutually exclusive, they go hand-in-hand.

Consider these examples:

  • Canada guarantees at least 15 weeks of paid maternity leave, with some employee cost- sharing as part of the national employment insurance system. Parental leave is 37 weeks shared between both parents with similar payments. There is also child care support of $100 per month for children under six.
  • The United Kingdom allows women to take up to 52 weeks of maternity leave (including 39 weeks with pay), in addition to a range of options for paternity leave.
  • Australia offers up to 18 weeks of parental leave with financial support, and at 5.8 percent its unemployment rate is lower than ours. The conservative Australian government didn’t embrace this policy grudgingly; they made it a centerpiece of their campaign platform and want to extend it to 26 weeks with more financial support.
  • Brazilian unemployment is comparable to ours, but their women get 120 days of leave at 100 percent pay.
  • Japan offers paid maternity leave at slightly reduced salary and benefits for up to 14 weeks of total leave. Moreover, Prime Minister Abe has made “Womenomics” – increasing GDP by boosting female labor force participation — a cornerstone of his governing agenda.

So, where does that leave us? While the rest of the world leans in, we’re still falling behind.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much appetite in this Congress for forward progress on these issues. But instead of waiting for leadership from Capitol Hill, we’re incentivizing reforms at the state level where so much public policy innovation takes place. Later this week, I’ll announce the winners of $500,000 in total grants for states to explore the feasibility and evaluate the effectiveness of paid leave policies. Currently, CaliforniaRhode Island and New Jersey stand alone as states with paid family and medical leave laws.

Our pressing challenge right now is to ensure shared prosperity, to build an economy that works for everyone. That means investing in the middle class, rewarding hard work and responsibility, ensuring that everyone has a chance to succeed. Paid leave has to be at the center of those efforts.

Via Work in Progress, the Official Blog of the U.S. Department of Labor

[Editor’s note: The Department of Labor grants to expand and implement paid family leave have been announced! Congrats to Washington D.C., Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Montana!]

Having a child is good for your career – if you’re a man

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Photo credit: John-Patrick Thomas

Great news! If you’re a man — especially a highly educated White or Latino man in a professional job — having a baby is great for your earnings. Congrats, dads! We’re happy for you. No, really, we are.

But what about women, you ask? The news ain’t so bright. Staff reporter Claire Cain Miller at The New York Times wanted to find out how parenthood affects earnings for men and women. Her findings are clear:

One of the worst career moves a woman can make is to have children. Mothers are less likely to be hired for jobs, to be perceived as competent at work or to be paid as much as their male colleagues with the same qualifications.

For men, meanwhile, having a child is good for their careers. They are more likely to be hired than childless men, and tend to be paid more after they have children.

These differences persist even after controlling for factors like the hours people work, the types of jobs they choose and the salaries of their spouses. So the disparity is not because mothers actually become less productive employees and fathers work harder when they become parents — but because employers expect them to.

This bias is most extreme for the parents who can least afford it, according to new data from Michelle Budig, a sociology professor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who has studied the parenthood pay gap for 15 years. High-income men get the biggest pay bump for having children, and low-income women pay the biggest price, she said in a paper published this month by Third Way, a research group that aims to advance moderate policy ideas. “Families with lower resources are bearing more of the economic costs of raising kids,” she said in an interview.

Ms. Budig found that on average, men’s earnings increased more than 6 percent when they had children (if they lived with them), while women’s decreased 4 percent for each child they had. Her study was based on data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth from 1979 to 2006, which tracked people’s labor market activities over time. Childless, unmarried women earn 96 cents for every dollar a man earns, while married mothers earn 76 cents, widening the gap.

At the other end of the earnings spectrum, low-income women lost 6 percent in wages per child, two percentage points more than the average. For men, the largest bonuses went to white and Latino men who were highly educated and in professional jobs. The smallest pay bumps went to unmarried African-American men who had less education and had manual labor jobs. “The daddy bonus increases the earnings of men already privileged in the labor market,” Ms. Budig wrote.

The motherhood penalty hurts more than mothers. Women are now the sole or primary breadwinner in 40% of American families. When women aren’t fairly compensated for their work, it means they must pick up extra jobs to support their families. Children who grow up in low-income households are less likely to receive adequate healthcare, have enough food to eat and attend college. What’s more, devaluing women’s work, both in status and in pay, sends the message to young girls and women that their work is simply not as important as their male counterparts.

Addressing women’s pay gaps means adopting a package of laws to protect women – policies such as paycheck transparency, paid family leave and paid sick days. Without these, women will continue to be subject to the whims of employers and a politics of greed. It’s time to step towards a brighter future for women. We need it, we deserve it, we demand it.

By Sam Hatzenbeler, MPHc, Graduate Policy Intern

Pelosi: Extend California’s paid family leave to the nation

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaking at a Washington Work and Family Coalition event in November 2013 on women’s economic security.

By House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

By helping 1.6 million Californians balance family and work, our state has demonstrated the success of paid family leave – and now it is time for the rest of America to join us.

Paid leave made a tremendous difference to Mary Ignatius when her second son was born with clubfeet. The doctors had explained to her the condition could be corrected, but cautioned that treatment would have to start immediately.

Caring for a newborn and Ignatius’ 4-year-old would have been a handful all on its own, but now there were weeks and weeks of doctors, casts, procedures and leg braces ahead for her baby boy.

Thankfully, Ignatius had access to paid family leave, so she could see her son through his treatments without giving up the paychecks she needed.

Most Americans are not so fortunate. Whether looking after a newborn, or tending to a recuperating family member or nursing a declining parent, too many Americans face an impossible choice between a paycheck they can’t afford to miss and bonding with a new baby or being there in a loved one’s hour of need.

Across the country, only 12 percent of American workers have access to paid family leave through their employers to care for a new child or seriously ill family member. The United States is the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave for new mothers.

For us to grow as an economy and a society, this must change.

Here, as in so many things, California is leading the way for the nation. For 10 years, our paid family leave program has enabled Californians such as Ignatius to take up to six weeks of paid leave to bond with their newborns and newly adopted children, or care for a seriously ill spouse, parent, child or partner. Starting in July, our state will cover care for siblings, grandparents and parents-in-law, too.

The program works by building on the state disability insurance program Californians have paid into for decades, creating minimal added cost to employees. In fact, the silent success of this program has meant that many California workers have no idea they are eligible for paid family leave.

Those who do take paid leave, however, find it invaluable – affording them the breathing room to tend to the health and strength of their families, while maintaining their commitments in the workplace. Businesses and families both benefit.

Expanding paid family leave to all Americans is a central pillar of House Democrats‘ economic agenda for women and families, “When women succeed, America succeeds.”

For our economy to grow, we need to unleash the full potential of women – and strengthen the middle-class families that are the backbone of our democracy.

Paid leave is a keystone of an agenda built to empower all of America’s women, along with raising the minimum wage, insisting on equal pay for equal work and providing affordable, quality child care.

With these measures, we can enable women and men to secure the balance between work and family they need to thrive.

Congress must pass the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, which would offer workers 12 weeks of leave at two-thirds of their salary to ensure that working men and women in every state of the union can have access to paid family leave. It proposes increasing the payroll tax contribution by 0.2 percent for employers with a match by employees.

California has once again taken the lead for our nation. Now Congress must act.

Originally published in the San Francisco Gate