With women comprising over half the population of the United States and over half the workforce, with the significant part that women played in the reelection of Obama as President, the time is right for pushing for the major issues facing women. This includes raising the minimum wage, guaranteeing workers the opportunity to earn paid sick leave, expanding affordable child care programs and passing the Paycheck Fairness Act.
A woman working full-time, year-round, at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, earns about $14,500 a year. For a family of three, that’s $4,000 below the federal poverty line. And women disproportionately comprise the minimum-wage workforce. Women also make up the majority of workers in the 10 largest, lowest-paying occupations, according to the National Women’s Law Center, as reported HERE earlier.
New research suggests that the minimum wage is not entirely separate from the issue of equal pay. A recent analysis from the National Women’s Law Center suggests that the gender pay gap is worse in the 31 states that haven’t raised the minimum wage higher than the federal minimum of $7.25. Of the 10 states with the lowest wage gaps, seven have set a minimum wage higher than the federal rate. And even as their share of the financial burden grows, women make up nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers, and they routinely face wage discrimination in their jobs. It behooves us to pass Rep. George Miller’s (D-Calif.) bill raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
The Paycheck Fairness Act, which strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and closes some of the loopholes employers are using to pay women less than men for the same work, must be passed if we are to begin to close the wage gap between women’s pay and men’s.
As a Pew study found early this month, women are increasingly the sole or primary breadwinners in their families, the paid sick leave issue has a greater resonance when cast in terms of working mothers: Why should a woman have to choose between caring for a sick child and earning a day’s pay? That kind of framing helped make Connecticut the first state in the U.S. with a paid sick day law on its books in 2011. DeLauro’s Healthy Families Act, which would allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick days a year is certainly worth pushing.
As for affordable, quality childcare, President Obama’s plan to dramatically expand pre-kindergarten in the U.S. by doubling federal taxes on cigarettes is a good start.
Hope springs from young women (and men), another generation of people who think in a different, more open way. With them, we can begin to deal with these issues. We must continue to make our voices heard.