How to truly commemorate Women’s Equality Day

Image: London Student Feminists/Wikimedia (License: CC BY-SA 3.0)

Image: London Student Feminists/Wikimedia (License: CC BY-SA 3.0)

We celebrate Women’s Equality Day on August 26 – the 95th anniversary of women in the U.S. winning the right to vote. It was not an easy victory. It took 72 years, with a multitude of activists using many tactics, from the formal launch of the women’s rights movement at Seneca Falls in 1848 to final passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

To win the vote, women petitioned and marched, made speeches and wrote volumes of reasoned arguments. Suffragettes were thefirst to ever picket the White House. Activists endured heckling and ridicule, attacks by mobs, police beatings, arrests, hunger strikes and forced feeding in prison.

Opponents argued women were physically and intellectually incapable of the reasoned thought required for voting, that allowing them to vote would destroy the family and threaten lucrative businesses – especially related to alcohol, that there were higher priorities demanding the attention of lawmakers.

Winning the right to vote was a landmark achievement, but it was never the only goal of women activists and their male allies. The 1848 Seneca Falls convention – attended by approximately 300 women and men, white and black, many of them active Abolitionists – also demanded  the overthrow of all laws that kept women inferior to men, and “the securing to woman an equal participation with men in the various trades, professions and commerce.” Women fought for equality in marriage, access to birth control, and the right to unionize. Three years after women’s suffrage finally passed, Alice Paul convinced a friend in Congress to introduce the Equal Rights Amendment to achieve these broader goals.

Ninety-five years after winning the vote, the ERA has yet to be ratified. Women turn out in greater numbers than men each election day and earn the majority of college and graduate degrees, but we’re a long way from the full equality our foremothers envisioned. Only 4.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women – that’s 23 out of 500.Women hold just 19% of seats in Congress, 24% of state legislative seats nationally (33% in Washington), and 17% of big-city mayor posts.

In virtually every occupation, women make less than men. Pay secrecy policies allow employers to get away with paying different wages for the same work. Men more often get rewarded with the plum assignments and promotions, while strong women are considered “difficult” and sidelined. Mothers and women of colorface especially high wage gaps, with single moms and their children experience shocking rates of poverty and near poverty.

Lack of paid leave is a women’s issue, too. Too many women and men don’t get sick leave to take care of their own health or a sick child or aging parent, and the U.S. remains the only advanced country without paid maternity leave. A recent investigative reportfound that nearly one in four women return to work within two weeks of giving birth despite the devastating impact on their own health and their new babies – because they can’t afford not to.

We aren’t going to get the rest of the way to equality by politely waiting around for a convenient time when it won’t interfere with corporate profits or the priorities of male leaders.

This year, despite three special sessions, Washington’s legislature couldn’t find the time to pass commonsense bills that would move women closer to economic parity – while giving a needed boost to the health and security of families and helping local main street businesses thrive. The 2015 legislature passed fewer bills than anyodd-year legislature going back more than 30 years. The Senatecancelled committee meetings to avoid voting on the Equal Pay Opportunity Act, Sick and Safe Leave, or a $12 minimum wage – which all sailed through the House. The House dropped consideration of Family and Medical Leave Insurance – which would provide paid leave for new parents and workers caring for a seriously ill family member or with their own serious illness or injury – as soon as it passed out of committee and the Senate ignored it completely.

Equal pay, job opportunities, and access to paid leave to care for our children and families’ health should not be partisan issues. We can be grateful to those brave women and men who defied convention and risked bodily harm to win the rights women enjoy today. Will our daughters and granddaughters have any new rights to thank us for – or are we going to pass our problems on to them?

Original: South Seattle Emerald »

Carly Fiorina Has A Laughable, Dangerous Solution To The Paid Leave Problem

You can’t leave this stuff up to CEOs.

"Carly fiorina speaking" by Michael Vadon - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Carly_fiorina_speaking.jpg#/media/File:Carly_fiorina_speaking.jpg

“Carly fiorina speaking” by Michael Vadon – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons. (details)

New mothers in the United States are often forced to go back to work just a few weeks after having babies. That happens because our federal government, unlike that of any other country in the developed world, offers no provision for paid maternity leave.

But no worries, everyone! Carly Fiorina has a solution. If the former Hewlett-Packard CEO is elected president, she’ll simply fix our economy, making it “so strong that employers are forced to compete for workers by offering better salaries, better leave policies, more time off, and good benefits,” she wrote on Thursday in a blog post for The Huffington Post.

This is a laughable and dangerous way to think about paid leave. One that’s sure to fail women in the United States, particularly those who aren’t lucky enough to work professional jobs at companies enlightened or profitable or large enough to offer paid maternity leave.

We’ve left paid leave up to businesses for too long, and what have they done? Right now only12 percent of employees at privately owned companies have access to paid leave, according to the Department of Labor.

Allowing this to keep happening would do more harm to the economy than Fiorina seems to understand. And paying for federal mandated leave is far cheaper than she seems to realize — even though her home state of California has been pulling it off for more than a decade.

But paid leave isn’t simply a matter of economics; it’s a public health issue that we all have an interest in.

Full story: Huffington Post »

Pittsburgh Residents Will Now Be Guaranteed A Paid Day Off When They Get Sick

[Original via ThinkProgress] On Monday, the Pittsburgh city council passed a bill requiring employers to offer workers paid time off for illness or to care for a sick loved one.

The bill passed seven to one after moving quickly through the council. It was introduced on July 6, which meant it got passed in less than a month.

The new law will require businesses with 15 employees or more to give workers at least five paid sick days and three for those with fewer, although unionized construction workers, seasonal employees, independent contractors, and government employees will be exempt. The leave can also be used to care for a spouse, child, parent, domestic partner, grandparent, or sibling. Currently, about 40 percent of the city’s private sector workers, including 77 percent of service workers, don’t have access to paid sick leave.

“In a huge victory for Pittsburgh workers, Pittsburgh city council has now joined Philadelphia in taking action to give an extremely important benefit to workers by passing councilman Corey O’Connor’s paid sick leave bill,” said PA Working Families director Kati Sipp in an emailed statement. “This legislation will give more than 49,000 Pittsburgh workers paid sick leave.”

Pittsburgh is now the second city in Pennsylvania and the 20th city nationwide. Four states have also passed paid sick leave requirements.

Click to embiggen

Click to embiggen

There is still no national requirement that employers offer their workers paid time of for illness, however, leaving about 40 percent of private sector workers without any paid days, including about 70 percent of low-income Americans. All other developed countries, on the other hand, have already passed such laws. President Obama and Democratic lawmakers have pushed to pass a national bill, but it hasn’t moved forward.

Critics argue that it will hurt businesses and jobs to institute paid sick leave requirements, but evidence from places with laws on the books points in the opposite direction. Employers inConnecticut, Jersey City, and Washington, D.C. say it hasn’t be costly or difficult to comply with the requirements, while some have even experienced benefits such as lower turnover and higher productivity. The vast majority of employers now support the laws. Meanwhile, job growth was actually stronger after laws took effect in Connecticut, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Lots Of Other Countries Mandate Paid Leave. Why Not The U.S.?

[Original via NPR] If you’ve been paying attention to the political news in the past couple of years, you know that the U.S. stands virtually alone in not mandating paid leave of any type for its workers.

It’s hard to miss; the topic has become a top talking point for Democratic politicians. Hillary Clinton is advocating for stronger paid-leave policies on the campaign trail. In her Monday economic address, Clinton called for paid family leave as a way of helping women stay in the workforce. Sen. Bernie Sanders, her closest rival for the Democratic nomination, has advocated both paid vacation and paid maternity leave on the campaign trail. In addition, some cities and states have started instituting their own sick leave policies.

President Obama likewise brought new attention to paid leave this year as well, when he pointed out in his State of the Union address that the U.S. is the only advanced economy that doesn’t mandate paid sick or maternity leave for its workers.

He was right about that — it’s true that most American workers are covered by the Family Medical Leave Act, which allows workers up to 12 weeks of leave per year to care for family members. But that leave is unpaid.

Here, for example, is where the U.S. stands on paid maternity leave in comparison with other countries in the OECD, a group of highly developed economies:

credit

Graphic: ThinkProgress – click to embiggen

The U.S. is the only one that doesn’t mandate paid maternity leave. Likewise, the U.S. is one of nine OECD countries that have no leave policies in place for fathers.

It’s not just parental leave, of course — when it comes to vacation, the U.S. is also unique. The chart below shows combined mandatory vacation days and federal holidays in all OECD nations. All of the U.S. days represented below are federal holidays (which are also not guaranteed days off for all workers); the rest of the nations mandate paid vacation days in addition.

It’s a similar story on sick days — among high-income countries, the U.S. alone does not mandate sick leave, according to data compiled by the World Policy Forum.

credit

Graphic: TheAtlantic.com – click to embiggen.

It’s not at all new to point this out, but data like these pose a tougher question: How did it get this way? Why is the U.S. so different from the rest of the world in not giving workers paid days off?

You could write an entire book about the complicated forces at work here, but a mix of a few big factors has helped set this scene: The aftermath of World War II, business lobbying, a diminished American labor movement, and the American love of individualism and bootstrap-pulling all have combined to help keep the U.S. alone in not giving its workers paid leave.

American Democracy Is Different

One way of thinking about why the U.S. stands alone on paid leave is to zoom way, way out and consider how Americans think about democracy in general — another area where Americans are arguably unique.

Political scientist Seymour Martin Lipset spent much of his career thinking aboutAmerican exceptionalism — trying to understand what exactly makes the U.S. such a strange creature. Our voting rates are low, but our volunteering rates are high, he pointed out. We’re deeply religious. And while some European democracies went in a more socialist direction, the U.S. veered the other way.

For a variety of reasons, Lipset argued, Americans have a different way of thinking about their democracy — the young American democracy was founded with values like individualism and equality of opportunity at its center. And unlike many European democracies, the U.S. has never been a monarchy or a feudal society — that means there’s less awareness of class divisions and less deference to the state in the U.S., Lipset writes. He also proposes a similar explanation for how labor parties and trade unions managed to be stronger in other countries but not in the U.S. — where there’s less class awareness, there’s less likelihood to join unions. (This is just one of many factors he uses to explain U.S. unions’ relative weakness, however.)

It’s easy to see how that might play out in the realm of paid-leave policies. First of all, with less labor power, there’s less support of these sorts of policies. But in addition, when it comes to social class, individualistic, ambitious Americans think of not where they are but where they assume they eventually could be.

“[Lipset’s] argument was that Americans identify with the social class that they aspire to rather than the social class that they were in,” explains Peter Cappelli, professor of management at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. “So Americans have a lot of sympathy for small business because American people you would have thought were workers historically thought of themselves as potentially being small-business people.”

The result is that Americans tend to have a bit more sympathy for business — after all, when we all own our own shops someday, we won’t want our hands tied by any more regulations than absolutely necessary.

How World War II Explains U.S. Maternity Leave

It’s not just that America’s attitudes differ from the rest of the world’s; the gap in parental leave in particular also has its roots in the aftermath of the world wars.

“The European social democracies that emerged after WWII all wanted paid leave policies (some had them earlier) in part because of their concern about replenishing the population,” Ruth Milkman, a professor of sociology at CUNY, wrote in an email.

Europe suffered both massive casualties and massive damage to its infrastructure, Milkman explains, and it needed to get more people into the workplace. That meant helping women get into work. Meanwhile, when the U.S. troops came home, it meant less of a need for women in the workplace.

“Here in the U.S., while the war was going on, you had women in jobs in factories and in all kinds of jobs the men had held. But women went home” when the soldiers returned from the war, explains Debra Ness, president of the National Partnership on Women and Families. And with all of those women returning to the home, there was less of a reason to create policies that helped them stay in the workplace.

A Loud Business Voice

One other force opposing paid leave is the business community. Trade groups like the National Federation of Independent Business and chambers of commerce at the state and national levels have repeatedly opposed paid-leave policies. In 2007, one U.S. Chamber of Commerce official said his organization would wage “all-out war” against paid-leave laws.

Businesses are not opposed to paid leave itself; 65 percent of U.S. civilian workers have paid sick leave, and 74 percent have paid vacation, according to the Labor Department. (The numbers are, however, slimmer for paid family leave — only 12 percent of private sector workers have access to that.)

But those in the business community say they’re opposed to the government telling businesses how to institute those policies. Paid leave is expensive, they argue, and businesses should all be able to figure it out on their own.

“The challenge with mandates is it is a government one-size-fits-all approach that tries to bring all of these unique workforces and workplaces under this one-size-fits-all approach,” says Lisa Horn, spokeswoman at the Society for Human Resource Management, a trade group for HR workers. “It limits workplace flexibility and company innovation in this area.”

The U.S.’s campaign finance system helps businesses keep these laws off the books, says one expert.

“Money plays a role in politics in many countries, but the extent to which the amount of dollars [is] spent on campaigns in the United States just dwarfs the amount spent in campaigns elsewhere,” says Jody Heymann, dean of the School of Public Health at UCLA. “The ability [to make] very large corporate contributions plays a much more substantial role in our elections than in other countries.”

With paid leave a top issue for the two front-running Democratic presidential candidates, conservative groups that oppose paid-leave laws will certainly find themselves fighting this fight in 2016, just as big-spending liberal groups that support paid-leave laws, like unions, will be pushing the cause of inching the U.S. a little bit closer to its international peers in this area.

Workers need paid safe leave

Spokane has an incredible opportunity to stand on the right side of domestic violence history this year by adopting an equitable safe and sick leave policy.

Many are not aware of this because of a narrow media focus on the “sick” part of the city of Spokane’s proposed “sick and safe leave” policy. It should provide an opportunity for all employees of Spokane businesses to earn paid time off to seek shelter, medical treatment, counseling, or law enforcement action related to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior in which one partner establishes and maintains power and control over another. As I educate companies in our area about how to recognize the signs of domestic violence among their employees, I often must remind them that RCW 49.76 has provided unpaid time off for survivors since 2008. This seven-year knowledge gap reminds me that once a paid safe leave policy passes, we must take a robust educational approach. This will ensure that every Spokane business understands their responsibilities clearly and stays in compliance to provide all survivors paid safe leave.

Why is this important to survivors?

Read more: The Spokesman-Review

Higher wages and paid sick days matter for everyone

iStock_000007676995MediumWe know a thing or two about low wages and paid sick leave. We are two retail workers in King County. Our union, along with many others — and health, faith and community organizations — support a higher minimum wage and paid sick days. We support these benefits for all workers. Not some, but all, regardless of whether the person is a union member or not.

Here’s something we bet you didn’t know: About one-third of Macy’s workers who are in our union, UFCW 21, and work in the downtown Seattle store are paid minimum wage. While the new higher minimum wage rose to $11 an hour April 1 in Seattle — and will go up to $15 in 2018 — it’s still not enough to pay the rent.

But, at least in Seattle, a worker who is sick doesn’t have to miss a day’s pay because the city’s Paid Sick and Safe Time law allows employees to stay at home and care for themselves or a sick family member without losing a day’s pay or facing discipline.

We have tried to get Macy’s and other employers to provide a higher base wage and paid sick leave in contract negotiations so that all workers, not just those who happen to work in Seattle, earn a higher wage and sick days.

Read more: The Seattle Times

Congratulations Oregon! Statewide paid sick leave bill wins final legislative approval

On Friday, Oregon’s state House passed a bill that would require most employers to offer five days of paid sick leave to their employees. If the governor signs it into law as advocates believe she will, it will be the fourth state in the country with such a requirement.

paid sick leave june 2015

Oregon’s bill applies to businesses with 10 or more employees and allows workers to accrue an hour of sick time for every 30 they work. The leave could be used to care for a worker herself, a family member, or donate it to a coworker. An estimated 47 percent of workers in the state don’t have access to paid sick days, including more than 70 percent of low-wage workers.snackrilege OR psd

After the bill passed, Jeff Anderson, chair of the Oregon Working Families Party and Secretary Treasurer for UFCW 555, said, “This has been a long time in the making, and it’s a big win for the Working Families Party, for my union, and for working families across the state.”

The bill comes after Portland passed its own requirement in 2013 and Eugene passed one last year. City and state laws across the country have picked up momentum in the past couple of years, with 2014 holding the record at 11 passed. Before Oregon’s vote, three others had been passed this year.

Read more from ThinkProgress »