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If Trump Has His Way, You’ll Certainly Miss This Agency You Probably Don’t Even Know Exists

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The Trump Administration has released its proposed budget for the 2018 fiscal year. Who’s set to lose big if this budget comes to fruition? Women—specifically working women and their families.

The only federal agency devoted to women’s economic security—the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau—is on the chopping block. The agency, which currently has a budget of only $11 million (just one percent of the DoL’s total budget), would see a 76 percent cut in its funds for the next fiscal year under the proposed budget.

Despite making up only 1 percent of the Department’s current budget and having only a 50-person staff, the Bureau serves in several crucial roles—simultaneously conducting research, crafting policy and convening relevant stakeholders (from unions to small businesses) in meaningful discussions about how to best support working women. The Women’s Bureau’s priorities have changed with the times—focusing on working conditions for women in the 1920s and 30s, and helping to pass the monumental Equal Pay Act in the early 1960s. (President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, making pay discrimination on the basis of sex illegal. However, because of loopholes in the 54-year-old law, the wage gap persists.) Throughout its nearly 100-year history, however, the agency has remained a powerful advocate for working women and families. Recent efforts have included advocating for paid family leave, trying to make well-paying trades jobs available to women and supporting women veterans as they re-enter civilian life.

Eliminating or underfunding the Women’s Bureau would be a huge setback for working women across the nation. Take the issue of paid family leave, for example. In recent years, the Bureau awarded over $3 million in Paid Leave Analysis grants to cities and states interested in creating and growing their own paid leave programs while federal action stalls. With the funding provided by the Women’s Bureau, states and localities have developed comprehensive understandings of what their own paid leave programs might look like. In Vermont, where the Commission on the Status of Women received a Paid Leave Analysis grant in 2015, state lawmakers are now on track to pass a strong paid family leave policy.

So why is the Trump Administration considering cutting such a low-cost, high-impact agency? Some suspect it’s at the suggestion of the conservative Heritage Foundation’s 2017 budget proposal, which calls the Women’s Bureau “redundant” because “today, women make up half of the workforce.”

What this justification conveniently leaves out is that despite important gains in recent decades, too many women, particularly women of color, are still stuck in low-paying, undervalued jobs, being paid less than their male counterparts and taking on a disproportionate amount of unpaid labor at home. It also leaves out the fact that those previously-mentioned important gains are largely the result of targeted efforts led by government agencies like the Women’s Bureau. Eliminating the agencies responsible for immense strides in preserving civil rights is, to quote the brilliant Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.” Instead of punishing an agency for its accomplishments, the Trump Administration should give the Women’s Bureau the resources it needs to tackle the problems remaining for working women.

Donald Trump is happy to engage in shiny photo-ops and feel-good listening sessions about women’s empowerment, but when it comes to doing concrete work to support the one government agency tasked with supporting women’s economic empowerment, this administration is nowhere to be found. If this government actually cares about women at all—that is, cares about more than good press and tidy, Instagrammable quotes—it should step up to defend this agency and its 97-year history. The working women of America deserve better.

This blog was originally published by the Make it Work Campaign on June 21, 2017. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Maitreyi Anantharaman is a policy and research intern for the Make it Work Campaign, a communications intern for Workplace Fairness and an undergraduate public policy student at the University of Michigan.


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Together We Can Make Pay Equity a Reality for All Working Women

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June 10th is the 54th anniversary of the passage of the Equal Pay Act, the 1963 law that prohibits employers from paying men and women different wages for the same work solely based on sex. The Equal Pay Act’s passage is an important example of the labor movement’s long history of partnering with progressive women’s organizations to advocate for equal pay for women. Indeed, Esther Peterson—one of the labor movement’s greatest sheroes—was instrumental in the enactment of this landmark legislation.

Pay equity and transparency are bread and butter issues for working women; when they come together to negotiate collectively for fair wages and important benefits, like access to health insurance and paid leave, they can better support their families. (Indeed, women in unions experience a smaller wage gap than women without a union voice).

 Since the passage of the EPA, the gender wage gap has narrowed, but it persists. Women overall typically are paid 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts, and that number has barely changed in the past 10 years. And the gap is even larger when you compare the earnings of women of color to white men.

 Clearly, we still have much to do to ensure pay equity, and there’s been some progress, thanks to tireless working women and their allies across the country. For instance, in the past two years, more than half the states have introduced or passed their own remedies to increase pay transparency, strengthen employer accountability and empower working people to take action against pay discrimination. But stronger protection from pay discrimination shouldn’t depend on where you happen to live or where you work. Working women deserve a national solution.

 That’s why the AFL-CIO, the National Women’s Law Center and countless other organizations support the Paycheck Fairness Act, part of a comprehensive women’s economic agenda. The PFA would strengthen the EPA by: protecting employees from retaliation for discussing pay; limiting the ability of employers to claim pay differences are based on “factors other than sex”; prohibiting employers from relying on a prospective employee’s wage history in determining compensation; strengthening individual and collective remedies against employers who discriminate; and increasing the data collection and enforcement capacity of key federal agencies.

 Let’s not forget that raising the federal minimum wage also would boost women’s earnings in a big way. A driving factor in the gender wage gap is women’s overwhelming majority representation (two-thirds of workers) in minimum wage jobs, including those who pay the lower-tipped minimum wage. Legislation like the Raise the Wage Act would give women the well-deserved raise they’ve earned.

 We need strong policy solutions like the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Raise the Wage Act to help close the gender wage gap. Working women and the families who depend on them can’t afford to wait another 54 years.

This blog was originally published at AFLCIO.org on June 10, 2017. Reprinted with permission.

About the Authors: Fatima Goss Graves is the senior vice president for program and president-elect at the National Women’s Law Center. In her current role, she leads the center’s broad agenda to eliminate barriers in employment, education, health care and reproductive rights and lift women and families out of poverty. Prior to joining the center,, she worked in private practice and clerked for the Honorable Diane P. Wood on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Liz Shuler is secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO. The second-highest position in the labor movement, Shuler serves as the chief financial officer of the federation and oversees operations. Shuler is the first woman elected as the federation’s secretary-treasurer, holding office since 2009.


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Congresswoman Will Introduce First-Ever Bill To Get Rid Of Salary Histories

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Bryce CovertWhen Congress gets back from recess, one of the first items on Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s (D-DC) agenda will be salary histories.

She, along with co-sponsors Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), will introduce the first-ever bill to ban employers from asking about applicants’ prior pay before making an offer.

The bill is aimed at closing the gender wage gap, which means the average woman working full-time, year round makes 79 percent of what a man does and women of color make even less.

Norton has a long history of working to end the wage gap, from her time enforcing equal pay laws while chairing the Equal Employment Opportunity Office to introducing and sponsoring equal pay legislation in Congress. Yet even she is somewhat new to the issue of salary histories and was inspired by a recent law that passed in Massachusetts banning their use.

“It was not instinctive to me to understand that asking an applicant for prior history could have a lifelong discriminatory affect,” she told ThinkProgress. But, she added, “All you need to do is think five seconds about it and you understand it.”

The issue is that women and people of color start out being paid less, a disparity that only compounds if their next job’s pay is based off of their prior pay. Women make less than men in their first jobs, a gap that is actually increasing, and then continue to earn less in virtually every occupation and even if they get more education.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) at the DNC. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) at the DNC. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

“If this disparity can begin from the moment you go to your first job, and it follows you throughout your career, it will never be rectified and the wage gap itself will never be rectified,” Norton said. “It is a hidden form of discrimination that many employers may think is reasonable to ask and may not understand the discriminatory effect.”

There is always room, of course, for employers to ask questions of applicants to determine who to hire and who will be a good fit. But Norton doesn’t think this one lives up to that scrutiny. “What somebody earned before does not go to merit… It doesn’t tell you how that employee, for example, should be judged relative to other employees,” she said. She noted it may even be hampering men, who would also be protected under the new bill.

The idea of eliminating salary histories has quickly gained prominence. Massachusetts passed its bill in the beginning of August, and a few weeks later a similar bill was introduced in the New York City council. Now it’s poised for federal attention.

For Norton, it’s a matter of halting a pattern that’s keeping pay disparities in place. “People of color and women never break the chain of discrimination, because it’s built in,” she said.

This article was originally posted at Thinkprogress.org on August 30, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Bryce Covert  is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The New York Daily News, New York Magazine, Slate, The New Republic, and others. She has appeared on ABC, CBS, MSNBC, and other outlets.


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GOP Pitch to Women: Forget Equal Pay, Let’s Talk About Repealing Obamacare

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Laura ClawsonHeading into the 2014 elections, the Republican position on women’s votes and women’s issues is nothing so much as incoherent. They’re defensive about their poor record, so they want to rebut it, but they mostly seem to do so by dismissing every specific issue as a distraction from the real issues. When you get right down to it, the Republican position appears to be “we’re not worried about no stinkin’ women’s issues because OBAMACARE. And we really do care about women’s issues … like OBAMACARE. And besides, we’re not really running as women, but you may want to vote for some of us because we are women.”

For instance, Joni Ernst, a Senate candidate in Iowa, leads her bio with “Mother. Soldier. Conservative for U.S. Senate.” The word “mother” is all over her website. But she says she’s not running on gender:

“It would be historical, but it’s not part of my pitch,” she said of potentially becoming Iowa’s first female senator. “I don’t believe we should vote for somebody based on gender, we vote for the right person and I’m the right person to go to Washington, D.C.”“Of course I’m always very diplomatic in the way that I attack any issue and I think that’s appealing to women. Be straight-forward about [issues], but be compassionate, show them that this is something that really matters to Iowans, not just female but also males,” she said.

It would make history, but I’m not running as a woman, and I’m super diplomatic like a woman, but I’m not running as a woman, and I’m compassionate like a woman, but I’m not running as a woman, and did I mention I’m a mother, but I’m definitely not running as a woman.

So what about equal pay, an issue that women care about? Forget that, Republicans say, because Obamacare:

Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway said reminding both genders of the problems with the Affordable Care Act would trump Democratic attacks on the equal pay issue.“Republicans recognize that this is also the Democratic party’s latest attempt to cry ‘squirrel!’ so women in this country, who control two out of every three health care dollars that are spent and are disproportionately health care consumers and providers… divert their attention from the unspooling of Obamacare,” Conway said.

Ah, yes, the unspooling of more than six million private insurance enrollments, plus themillions covered by Medicaid expansion, plus young people who’ve been able to stay on their parents’ insurance. I think unspooling is what Republican arguments against the law have done. And how’s this as an argument for ignoring equal pay concerns? “Listen, ladies, we know you don’t want to be distracted by a little thing like equal pay. Let us explain how we’d like to take away your affordable health care.”

In the end, this may be one of the greatest (and admittedly one of the few) examples of Republican commitment to equal opportunity. For women, just as for men, their answer to everything is “repeal Obamacare.”

This article was originally printed on Daily Kos on March 31, 2014.  Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is the labor editor at the Daily Kos.


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For Women, Being in a Union Pays

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seiu-org-logoThis Women’s History Month is a perfect time to celebrate the capacity for upward mobility women have gained in the workforce–especially when it comes to labor unions.

Women have a great deal to gain from joining a union, with union victories working to pave the way for workers to bargain for affordable family healthcare, fair wages, improved working conditions, and a better life for their families.

Share this graphic on Facebook to tell the world why a woman’s place is in her union.

There are so many reasons women benefit so much from the union advantage:

Being in a union is good for a woman’s health.
When it comes to both fiscal and physical health, being in a union is the way to go. Unionization dramatically raises the probability of a woman having a pension (53.4 percent) and an employer-provided health insurance plan (36.8 percent).

Unions have been a powerful force for women’s equality.
Collective bargaining cuts down on employer favoritism, which helps women–and importantly, women of color–get a fair chance at work. Unionized women of color, for example, earn almost 35 percent more than nonunion women of color.

Unionization results in significantly higher wages for women of all education levels.
Being a member of a union raises women’s wages by 12.9 percent compared to their nonunion peers. That’s a pay increase of $222 a week–which adds up to $11,544 a year.

Unions protect workers’ rights regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender. 
In a country where it’s still legal for an employer to fire someone for being gay in 29 states, and for being transgender in 34, having a union can make all the difference.

Unions help close the wage gap.
Despite the fact the gender wage gap overall hasn’t made any progress in the last five years, it’s been shrinking among workers who belong to a union, declining 2.6 percent between 2013 and 2012. The gender gap between what unionized male workers make and what unionized female workers make is just 9.4 percent, compared to 18.7 percent among nonunion workers.

Considering the great boost to equality, pay and benefits that unions bring, it’s important that anyone who cares about the well-being of women workers also care about unions.

So spread the word. While we can’t change the world in a day, speaking out about this important issue is a good start.

Celebrate being union strong this Women’s History Month. Share this graphic with your family and friends on Facebook:

20140314-Final-WomensHisotryFBgraphic.png

And never forget why a woman’s place is in her union.

This article was originally printed on SEIU on March 30, 2014.  Reprinted with permission.

This Women’s History Month is a perfect time to celebrate the capacity for upward mobility women have gained in the workforce–especially when it comes to labor unions.

Women have a great deal to gain from joining a union, with union victories working to pave the way for workers to bargain for affordable family healthcare, fair wages, improved working conditions, and a better life for their families.

Share this graphic on Facebook to tell the world why a woman’s place is in her union.

There are so many reasons women benefit so much from the union advantage:

Being in a union is good for a woman’s health.
When it comes to both fiscal and physical health, being in a union is the way to go. Unionization dramatically raises the probability of a woman having a pension (53.4 percent) and an employer-provided health insurance plan (36.8 percent).

Unions have been a powerful force for women’s equality.
Collective bargaining cuts down on employer favoritism, which helps women–and importantly, women of color–get a fair chance at work. Unionized women of color, for example, earn almost 35 percent more than nonunion women of color.

Unionization results in significantly higher wages for women of all education levels.
Being a member of a union raises women’s wages by 12.9 percent compared to their nonunion peers. That’s a pay increase of $222 a week–which adds up to $11,544 a year.

Unions protect workers’ rights regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender. 
In a country where it’s still legal for an employer to fire someone for being gay in 29 states, and for being transgender in 34, having a union can make all the difference.

Unions help close the wage gap.
Despite the fact the gender wage gap overall hasn’t made any progress in the last five years, it’s been shrinking among workers who belong to a union, declining 2.6 percent between 2013 and 2012. The gender gap between what unionized male workers make and what unionized female workers make is just 9.4 percent, compared to 18.7 percent among nonunion workers.

Considering the great boost to equality, pay and benefits that unions bring, it’s important that anyone who cares about the well-being of women workers also care about unions.

So spread the word. While we can’t change the world in a day, speaking out about this important issue is a good start.

Celebrate being union strong this Women’s History Month. Share this graphic with your family and friends on Facebook:

20140314-Final-WomensHisotryFBgraphic.png

And never forget why a woman’s place is in her union.

This article was originally printed on SEIU on March 30, 2014.  Reprinted with permission.

Author: SEIU President Mary Kay Henry


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Should We Have a “Maximum Wage”?

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markengler140

Should our societies have a “maximum wage”? Would the world be better off if the United States had one?

Currently, Americans are debating raising the national minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10 per hour over the next two years. While conservatives will oppose it, such a boost shouldn’t be contentious.

Back in 1967, the U.S. minimum wage was $1.40 per hour. That’s not as measly as it sounds. Your grandparents’ tales about when ten pennies could actually buy something are not mere nostalgia. In fact, the 1967 wage had twenty percent more purchasing power than the current minimum.

Economic productivity is an even bigger part of the story. Our labor is producing more value today, but working people aren’t seeing any of the gains. Had the U.S. minimum wage kept pace with productivity increases since 1960, it would now be $22 per hour.

Who has walked away with the proceeds from all that productivity? It’s a fair question, but it leads back to discussion of a maximum wage. And that’s where things get controversial.

A January report from Oxfam noted, “The richest one percent has increased its income by 60 percent in the last 20 years.” It further argued that the 2012 net income of the world’s top 100 billionaires—a haul of $240 billion–would be four times the amount needed to eliminate extreme poverty internationally.

While regions such as Latin America have made strides in reducing the gap between the rich and poor in the past decade, the United States has led the way in manufacturing excess at the expense of equity.

To remedy this, U.S. transit workers union leader Larry Hanley recently proposed a “maximum wage” law that would limit an employer’s income to being no more than 100 times the salary of his or her lowest-paid employee. If an entry-level worker gets $30,000 per year, the CEO would make no more than $3 million.

Other countries provide precedents for such a policy. In Spain, the manufacturing and retail enterprises that belong to the Mondragon cooperative network limit top pay to three to nine times worker compensation,” explains author and policy analyst Sam Pizzigati, perhaps the most outspoken U.S. proponent of a maximum wage. Since 2011, Egypt and France have each pursued fixed pay ratios for leaders of state-owned enterprises. Even Switzerland, a country not known for being inhospitable to bankers, has passed restrictions on pay for bank executives and banned “golden parachute” severance packages.

Some advocates contend that a maximum wage should apply only to businesses receiving taxpayer support—in the form of bailouts, government contracts, tax abatements, or other public subsidies. Since American industry has been notoriously hungry for corporate welfare, this would cover a very large portion of the U.S. economy.

Free marketeers will no doubt blast the idea of a maximum wage as the type of insane socialistic tyranny that chains everyone into the same, lowly state of mediocrity. Yet a ceiling based on a ratio between the executives at the top of a business and the grunts at the bottom doesn’t set a hard cap on earnings. It merely puts to the test one of their most cherished claims: that the profits of a successful enterprise trickle down to benefit everyone.

Economists love to talk about incentives. In this case, such limits would motivate CEOs to augment the pay of their janitors, secretaries, and cashiers for a simple reason: Their own raises would depend on it.

Besides, a 100-to-1 discrepancy is hardly government-enforced equality.

It would be a considerable departure from the status quo, however. A typical American CEO now makes 380 times what the average worker in the country earns (never mind the lowest-paid).

That’s not an example the world needs. And it’s something that will take more than just a small boost in the minimum to fix.

This article was first published in the New Internationalist and appears with permission of the author.
About the Author: Mark Engler is a senior analyst with Foreign Policy In Focus and author of How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy (Nation Books). He can be reached via the website http://www.DemocracyUprising.com.

 


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