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 -

“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 »

Let’s Expose the Gender Pay Gap

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

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

HOW serious are we, really, about tackling income equality?

The Securities and Exchange Commission took a shot at it last week, approving a rule that would require companies to disclose their C.E.O. pay gap — comparing how much chief executive officers take home compared with ordinary employees.

That’s a fine idea. But here’s a better one: require companies to publish their gender pay gap.

Think about it. Calling out top executives for making too much money will at most embarrass a few suits. But calling out companies for paying women too little will help millions — and perhaps crack one of the most intractable problems of our time.

More than a half-century after President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the gap between what men and women earn has defied every effort to close it. And it can’t be explained away as a statistical glitch, a function of women preferring lower-paying industries or choosing to take time off for kids.

Claudia Goldin, a labor economist at Harvard, has crunched the numbers and found that the gap persists for identical jobs, even after controlling for hours, education, race and age. Female doctors and surgeons, for example, earn 71 percent of what their male colleagues make, while female financial specialists are paid just 66 percent as much as comparable men. Other researchers have calculated that women one year out of college earn 6.6 percent less than men after controlling for occupation and hours, and that female M.B.A. graduates earn on average $4,600 less than their male classmates for their first jobs.

It’s not that men are intentionally discriminating against women — far from it. I’ve spent the past year interviewing male executives for a book about men and women in the workplace. A vast majority of them are fair-minded guys who want women to succeed. They’re absolutely certain that they don’t have a gender problem themselves; it must be some other guys who do. Yet they’re leaders of companies that pay men more than women for the same jobs.

Women are trying mightily to close that chasm on their own. Linda Babcock, an economist at Carnegie Mellon and co-author of the book “Women Don’t Ask,” has found that one reason for the disparity is that men are four times more likely to ask for a raise than women are, and that when women do ask, we ask for 30 percent less. And so women are told we need to lean in, to demand to be paid what we’re worth. It’s excellent advice — except it isn’t enough.

Read more: New York Times »

Women would be the biggest winners in an expansion of overtime laws

Businessman introducing teenage girl to young professional woman

Raising the cap on workers eligible for overtime would boost single moms, as well as black and latino women.

Overtime can make a big difference for people living paycheck to paycheck. And, according to a new report, a single change to the rules about who’s eligible for overtime pay would expand the number of low-wage workers who qualify for that extra pay by a whopping 5.9 million.

Right now, workers may earn no more than $455 per week (or $23,660 per year) in order to be eligible for overtime. But under the new rule change proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor in July, that threshold would go up to $970 per week or $50,440 per year. According to a newreport by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and MomsRising, the majority of those those newly covered workers would be women.

The report finds that single moms, as well as black and latino women would see the largest benefits—both in terms of the percentage of women gaining OT coverage and the amount that the rule would add to their paychecks.

Read the full story: Fortune »

Student loan debt is creating a systematic gender wealth gap that persists for women’s entire lives

Credit: Creative Commons

Credit: Creative Commons

[Via] Law school was supposed to be Erika Stallings’ path to financial stability. The first in her family to attend college, Stallings earned a full ride to the University of North Carolina, and then chose to attend Georgetown Law because the school offered her a partial scholarship. But she graduated with $115,000 in student loans anyway, and today, the $1,000 monthly loan payment eats up a big chunk of her paycheck. So despite her white-collar job and fancy diplomas, she remains in a state of financial precariousness.

“I’m probably as well-off as someone age 30 can be,” Stallings said in an interview. “But even I feel the panic of knowing if I lost my job today, because I’ve been trying to pay off as much debt as possible, I don’t have the Suze Orman emergency fund. If I were unemployed for a while, trying to keep up with these $1,000 a month payments would be terrifying.”

Of course, Stallings situation is not unique. Across the United States, women like Stallings are staring down piles of student debt—bigger piles, in fact, than the ones facing their former male classmates. They’re also making less money with which to pay off that debt. The combination is making women poorer, more dependent, and setting them up for a more tenuous retirement. And it’s creating a systematic gender wealth gap that persists for women’s entire lives.

“I don’t have a familial safety net,” Stallings said. “If I didn’t have this student loan debt, I could start building my own safety net. There would be more money for me to send home. I could switch careers. Last year I had major surgery—adding those bills onto the student loan debt is scary.”

With more women attending college and graduate school than ever before, it naturally follows that more women are also racking up student debt. Women are more likely to take out student loans than men, in an economy where college costs significantly more than it did a generation ago. While it’s a significant feminist achievement that women now account for 57 percent of graduates earning bachelor’s degrees, those women are more likely than their male peers to start their careers in a financial hole: 68 percent of those female graduates are leaving school with some amount of student loan debt, compared to 63 percent of men.

That happens for a few reasons. Women make up 62 percent of students at private and often pricey four-year institutions, where tuition costs are often in five-figure range; there are also a million more women than men in community colleges, which are more affordable, but have high drop-out rates – just one in five first-time full-time community college students graduates in five years, leaving the ones who don’t with limited job prospects and accumulated debt.

Women also make up a larger number of first-generation college students than men, and students who are the first in their family to go to school are more likely to come from low-income families, more likely to take out loans, and more likely to drop out before completing a degree than students who have a parent with a bachelor’s degree. Female college students are also more likely than men to be from poor families, whether they’re first-generation students or not, and that financial disadvantage requires them to borrow more.

Once they graduate—if they graduate—women make less money than men , and so spend a greater proportion of their salaries to pay off their loans. So while their male peers have more money to play with – to put into a 401k, to invest, to save for a home, to put in an emergency fund, to use as a cushion when they take a big career risk – women throw much of their income down a student debt hole that often stretches on for decades.

But while Democratic politicians have called attention to the gender pay gap, and proposed legislation to close it, there has been less of an emphasis on how student loans help turn the pay gap into life-long gender wealth disparities.

A 2013 study by the American Association of University Women found that women who graduated in college in 2008 saw an immediate gap in their earnings compared to their male classmates: One year out of college, women working full-time made just 82 percent of what men who graduated the same year made.

Some of that gap can be accounted for by factors like the number of hours worked, the kinds of occupations women tend to work in, and employment sector. But even when all else is equal, women still make 7 percent less than men one year out of college.

“Because women earn less, paying back their student loans is effectively more difficult for them because a higher proportion of their earnings is devoted to the student loan payment,” said Catherine Hill, AAUW’s vice president of research and one of the study’s authors. “Because of the pay gap, the student debt is taking out a bigger chunk of their smaller paychecks, leaving them with less money to live on.”

There is some degree of “choice” involved in the pay gap – insofar as women funneled into certain careers and men into others is a “choice.” More women major in the humanities than in fields like business, engineering and the sciences, which usually lead to better-paying jobs after graduation. Within employment sectors, men gravitate toward high-paying specialties, while women may focus on areas that are more fulfilling or more flexible, but less remunerative.

But even when researchers account for those factors, women still make less than men when in the first year of their careers, even when doing the exact same jobs—a trend that persists throughout their careers. Gender discrimination, intentional or not, seems to be the only explanation.

Almost no industry is immune. In business and management jobs, women a year out of college make 86 cents to their male peers’ dollar. If they work in sales, it’s 77 cents. Among nurses, a field dominated by women, the handful of men in the industry make much more over the course of their careers—an average of $5,100 every year.

This financial burden can impact every major decision a woman makes for the rest of life—from her career to her marriage to her children to caring for her aging parents to her retirement. Research shows that women who have student loans are less likely to marry—and the more in debt they are, the more their marriage prospects decrease—while the same doesn’t hold true for men. According to the female-focused financial site LearnVest, nearly half of in-debt college graduates delayed buying a home because of their student loans, and nearly a quarter postponed having kids.

“You think about the expense of kids and it’s like, how would I ever take that on and maintain the loan payments? It gives me pause,” Stallings, the first-generation college student, said. She added that while she wants to be able to plan for children, the weight of her debt makes that difficult.

“I have a BRCA II mutation, so one consequence of that is I’m probably going to have my ovaries taken out when I’m 38,” Stallings said. “If I had the money right now I would get my eggs frozen, but trying to find another $15,000 to do that is not easy.”

“Then saving for an emergency fund,” she said, describing her financial priorities. “Then a house or an apartment, not necessarily for myself — I’ve thought of buying my mom property in North Carolina because it’s cheaper, and that would stabilize her financial situation.”

And unlike lots of women, Stallings has a well-paying job that allows her to make her monthly payments in full. For the many women who default or miss payments on their student loans, the hit to their credit scores can compromise their ability to buy a car or a house or even rent an apartment for years to come. For women with car payments or mortgages, piled-on student debt forces some hard choices.

When women spend higher proportions of their income on student debt—and 47 percent spend more than the recommended 8 percent, compared to just 39 percent of men—they’re less able to make the kind of investments that build long-term wealth. There’s less money to put into a 401k, to put toward emergency savings, to buy a home. And after a lifetime of shoveling money toward student loans, and getting paid less than their male counterparts, women entering retirement could be looking at years of financial stability, even poverty.

“I joke all the time that I’ll pay off my house before I pay off my student loans,” Suzanne Meyer, a 43-year-old high school English teacher in North Carolina, told me. “I’m going to be 87 years old in a nursing home and still paying off my student loans. That’s my reality.”

Meyer took out about $30,000 in loans to go to graduate school and get her teaching license. After consolidating, deferring, and missing payments, she now owes nearly $60,000.

“I pay my mortgage first, and we need electricity and food, so the student loans are always last to get paid, and a lot of times that means they don’t get paid at all,” she said. “Which sounds awful, and it’s doing horrible things to my credit, but the reality is they aren’t going to come take my licensure because I didn’t pay my bill.”

The $5,000 she’s hoping to get from the federal loan forgiveness program will make a dent, Meyer said, but not a big enough one. She would like to see the government consider more innovative ways people with student loan debt could repay it—for example, by volunteering or tutoring in a state or federal educational program.

“It’s unrealistic to say I want the whole loan to go away,” Meyer said. “I did borrow the money. But I can give back in other ways that the government needs. It’s a government loan and the government needs certain things – there are programs out there that need assistance and I would be capable of doing that. Let me pay it back in a different way.”

While she’s not making enough money to pay back her own student loans, Meyer has another one looming in the near future.

“I have a kid in high school. I don’t have a college fund for her,” she said. “I’m looking at the other side of student loans now for my child, and that scares me.”

~By Jill Filipovic

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:


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.


Graphic: – 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