Washington Update (April 11, 2014)
Typically, Equal Pay Day — the symbolic date when women’s wages catch up to men’s from the previous year — is the Worst. Holiday. Ever. Although President Barack Obama’s actions this Equal Pay Day represented a victory for women and families, the refusal by a minority of the Senate to even talk about equal pay the next day provided a stark reminder of the road ahead. We got some wonderful press visibility for the issue and the good works of AAUW, including a Forbes article about the infamous 77 percent statistic, and a Philadelphia NPR debate between AAUW and the American Enterprise Institute about whether the gender pay gap exists.
Equal pay is not a partisan issue, and it shouldn’t be. A bipartisan group of women legislators – many of them AAUW members – wrote the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Gender pay discrimination is a real-world issue in need of real-world solutions — and part of that solution is passing the Paycheck Fairness Act! The only way for politicians to know what their constituents want is for us to tell them, in no uncertain terms. We must keep telling them until they finally choose to stand on the right side of history.
For the next two weeks, elected officials will be in their states and districts to hear what you have to say. I hope you’ll seize this Spring Break opportunity to ask your elected officials to move the Paycheck Fairness Act forward in an in-district meeting, town hall, and other in-person events.
Not sure when your members of Congress are hosting town hall meetings? Just ask! Look up the phone numbers for your U.S. representative’s and senators’ district offices, and call them to ask when the next town hall or another similar event is happening. When you go to the event, be visible by making signs or wearing stickers, bringing AAUW friends and literature, and directly asking your elected officials to support the Paycheck Fairness Act. It’s your right as their constituent!
Can’t make a meeting? Write a letter to the editor on the importance of equal pay to you and your community. Believe me, if members of Congress’ names are in ink somewhere, their press staff and campaign managers will make sure they read it.
I know AAUW members like you will not quit until we make Equal Pay Day fall on New Year’s Day for all women. Thank you for all that you do, and let’s go get ‘em!
Yours in AAUW,
Lisa M. Maatz
Vice President of Government Relations
The One Thing You Must Do
But Because You Want to Do More
The next step for the Paycheck Fairness Act is to gain signatures for the House discharge petition, a procedural maneuver that would automatically force the bill to the House floor for a vote if 218 representatives sign the petition. As of today, 197 members have signed the petition – urge your representative to help us get to 218!
After we celebrated AAUW member and volunteer appreciation week at the end of March, AAUW member and Community Action Grantee Jan Mitchell shared this post with us. If it means as much to you as it does to us, please share it on Facebook and Twitter!
In recognition of Campus Sexual Assault Awareness Month, here are 10 ways to fight sexual assault on campus.
For easy navigation, the Department of Education recently added to its website a list of Office of Civil Rights compliance reviews and resolution agreements.
Have you heard about the upcoming White House Summit on Working Families? Check out AAUW’s recent blog post for more information on the summit, links to AAUW work-life balance resources, and how YOU can join the national conversation via local events.
Interested in hosting a STEM workshop or another AAUW event, but tight on resources? The AAUW Community Action Grant deadline has passed (there’s always next year!), but consider applying for a Macy’s District Grant.
Obama Signs Equal Pay Executive Orders While Senate Rejects Paycheck Fairness Act
On Tuesday, President Obama signed an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees who ask about or share their own salary information. He also signed a presidential memorandum directing the Department of Labor to collect and publish federal contractor compensation data by gender and race. However, the Equal Pay Day success did not persist through Wednesday’s Senate vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act (S.84/S.2199), when senators voted largely along party lines to block the bill from clearing the 60-vote procedural hurdle. This is the third time in less than four years that a minority of senators has blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act from being substantively debated on the Senate floor.
- Your senators need to hear how you feel about their votes! Visit AAUW’s Two-Minute Activist tool to find out how your senators voted and contact them about their votes.
Senate Votes to Extend Unemployment Benefits
On Monday, the Senate passed a bill to extend emergency unemployment insurance, which Congress let expire in December 2013. The bill would retroactively extend unemployment benefits for five months. Despite being passed on a 59-38 vote, the Senate legislation is not expected to move through the House. House Speaker John Boehner commented that he would only support the bill if it included provisions to create private-sector jobs.
- Tell your members of Congress that enough is enough: Americans have gone too long without these crucial unemployment benefits, and it’s time to extend them without delay!
House Passes Ryan Budget
In a 219-205 vote on Thursday, the House passed a Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). All Democratic members voted against the bill, while all but 12 Republicans voted for it. Included in the budget are measures to repeal the Affordable Care Act, deeply cut taxes, turn Medicare into a voucher program, and increase national defense spending. It is not expected to pass in the Senate.
State Spotlight: Minnesota
State House Passes Women’s Economic Security Act
Legislators in the Minnesota House passed the Women’s Economic Security Act on Wednesday. The bill, which now heads to the state Senate, would help close the gender pay gap, improve access to affordable and quality child care, increase the availability of family and sick leave, raise the state minimum wage, and implement other provisions designed to strengthen women’s economic security.
- Congrats to AAUW of Minnesota on this important victory, and good luck with the rest of the journey to making the bill into law!
Cheer of the Week
Our cheer this week goes out to YOU, the AAUW members who outdid themselves yet again when it comes to Equal Pay Day activities across the country! The results are still pouring in, but they’re impressive: So far we’ve heard about gubernatorial proclamations in Virginia, Nevada, Missouri, and New Hampshire; state legislative resolutions in Delaware, Louisiana, and Illinois; and too many letters to the editor, op-eds, unhappy hours, and issue forums to recount in this newsletter!
- Don’t let your activity get left out! Tell us what you did for Equal Pay Day so we can tally up AAUW’s reach and potentially spotlight your efforts in AAUW publications.
Jeer of the Week
Kansas State Senator Tom Edison (R) proposed a bill that would try to force Fox to black-out the “godless” show Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. Edison claims the show is anti-Christian, pro-Muslim, liberal brainwashing (seriously, we can’t make this stuff up). His bill, which somehow is expected to pass, would allow Fox to prevent the law from going into effect if it agrees to develop a new show based on the unscientific theory of intelligent design. Not only would this bill threaten the principle of church-state separation on which our nation was founded, but it also begs the question: In a time where women are vastly underrepresented in STEM fields, is a little scientific wonder and inspiration from a TV show such a bad thing?
Bits and Pieces
- Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius resigned on Thursday. President Obama nominated Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to replace Sebelius, who recently touted that 7.5 million Americans enrolled for insurance under the Affordable Care Act exchanges.
- A new analysis of 46 state legislatures by the Guttmacher Institute revealed that 733 provisions related to sexual and reproductive health have already been introduced in the first quarter of 2014. Of that number, three new abortion restrictions were passed and 303 provisions limiting women’s access to reproductive health care were introduced.
- While college costs have steadily risen, a recent study found that day care costs more than college in 31 states. AAUW supports the Women’s Economic Agenda, which is working to increase access to quality, affordable child care.
- On Wednesday, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced a new partnership with the Department of Education through the Blue Campaign. The two departments will develop human trafficking indicator and training programs for school officials, teachers, and staff.
- A recent Pew study found an increase in the percentage of mothers with young kids who are stay-at-home moms. The study also found an increase in the percentage of stay-at-home moms who say they would like to work but cannot find a job, and it found that women with lower levels of education were more likely to be stay-at-home moms.
- Last week, the House Judiciary Committee approved the Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act (H.R. 4323), which helps ensure timely analysis of rape kit DNA evidence and provides local and state grants for training. The reauthorization would extend current law through 2019.