Washington Update (April 15, 2011)

NEWS
Equal Pay Day 2011
AAUW Hosts Press Conference Opposing D.C. Voucher Expansion
Students Face Record Levels of College Debt
2012 Campaigns Begin to Formalize 
Department of Justice Files Suit Enforcing FACE Act

LEGISLATIVE AND REGULATORY UPDATES 
Two Bills Reintroduced on Equal Pay Day
Spending Compromise Prevents Government Shutdown
Defense STRONG Act Introduced to Combat
Senate Defeats Effort to Ban Funding for Women’s Health
Maryland Legislature Passes Own DREAM Act 

RESOURCES FOR ADVOCATES 
Mink Education Foundation Grant Applications Open
Feature Your Activities on the AAUW Member Showcase
Sign Up Your Friends and AAUW Colleagues for Action Network!

UNIQUELY AAUW 
Connect2AAUW
2011 National Convention Registration Open
AAUW Public Policy Fund Pins — and a Bonus
 


NEWS

Equal Pay Day 2011
April 12 was Equal Pay Day, the symbolic point at which the average U.S. woman’s salary finally caught up to the average U.S. man’s earnings from the previous year. Throughout the week, AAUW members and staff organized events across the country to bring attention to the persistent problem of the gender pay gap.

On Monday, AAUW hosted a Capitol Hill briefing entitled New Voices for Pay Equity, at which experts highlighted inequities in the fields of engineering, law, academia and public relations and discussed the impacts lower pay has on every aspect of women’s lives. In conjunction with the briefing, AAUW released a new report called The Simple Truth. This commonsense guide provides key facts about the gender pay gap in the United States with explanations and resources to help activists effectively advocate for pay equity.

On Tuesday, Equal Pay Day, AAUW threw an (un)happy hour as part of our popular Cocktails and Convos series in Washington, D.C. Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Lisa Maatz was the event’s featured speaker and attendees were treated to the premier of the Equal Pay Day Flash Mob video produced by AAUW and the Center for American Progress. The viral video quickly drew attention nationwide, thanks in part to a Huffington Post blog by Executive Director Linda Hallman.

As AAUW took to Capitol Hill, and to the dance floor, lawmakers recognized the significance of the day. President Barack Obama officially proclaimed April 12, 2011 as National Equal Pay Day and featured the issue on the White House blog. Additionally, the US Congress Joint Economic Committee released a new report Tuesday, demonstrating how the pay gap jeopardizes women’s retirement security. Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis commemorated the occasion as well, releasing a statement saying, "Equal pay is not just a women’s issue. It’s not just a family issue. It’s a recovery issue.”  

Take Action! Urge your members of Congress to cosponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act as it is reintroduced in the 112th Congress! Also, help keep the excitement going by sharing our Equal Pay Day Flash Mob video with your friends!

AAUW Hosts Press Conference Opposing D.C. Voucher Expansion
On Thursday, AAUW hosted a press conference to call attention to the widespread opposition to imposed re-authorization of the D.C. Voucher program by the U.S. Congress. AAUW Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Lisa Maatz opened the press conference, followed by D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, and members of the National Coalition for Public Education. Last week’s budget compromise would inject new federal tax dollars and new students into a failed program that D.C. residents do not want. Unlike all other municipal governments in the U.S., D.C. is the only city whose spending of locally raised tax dollars and legislation must attain Congressional approval.

AAUW stands firmly by the belief that the country should provide an excellent public education for all children, not private school vouchers for a few.  

Students Face Record Levels of College Debt
Student debt levels have risen to record highs and continue to grow as the total amount held by students exceeds $1 trillion this year. While more students are going to college than ever before, the proportion of students in need of loan assistance has increased as well. In 2008, two-thirds of students graduating with a bachelor’s degree did so in debt compared to less than half of students only 15 years earlier. While paying off student loans is considered “good debt” by many experts, the volume of debt may cause younger generations to delay marriage, homeownership, and having children due to financial constraints. The issue is particularly pertinent for young women as they face a pay gap immediately after graduation; lower wages may mean even greater difficulty paying off loans.

Take Action! Tell your senators to preserve the Department of Education’s role in protecting students and taxpayers by providing a long-overdue definition of “gainful employment!” Federal tuition assistance dollars are an investment in the future economic strength of our workforce and our country’s prosperity.

2012 Campaigns Begin to Formalize 
After months of speculation, presidential hopefuls for the 2012 election are beginning to announce their candidacy. On Monday, former Massachusetts Governor and speculated Republican front-runner Mitt Romney announced he was forming a presidential exploratory committee, the precursor to a presidential campaign. Other likely candidates, from Donald Trump to Newt Gingrich, have also recently taken to the airwaves to test the waters.

On April 4, President Obama officially launched his 2012 reelection campaign. Obama released the announcement via email to his 2008 supporters and launched an update of www.barackobama.com website with a video for grassroots supporters called “It begins With Us.” The president is not likely to face a primary challenger.

Women wield considerable power in U.S. politics. For more than a century, AAUW has influenced legislative debate and taken positions on the fundamental issues of the day — educational, social, economic, and political. AAUW’s Voter Education campaign is brimming with a variety of resources to help you become educated about the issues and to motivate others to take action.

Department of Justice Files Suit Enforcing FACE Act
Last week, the Justice Department filed a civil complaint against Angel Dillard for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act. Dillard wrote and mailed a letter threatening violence against a Wichita, Kansas, doctor who was learning how to perform abortions.

AAUW supports the right of every woman to safe, accessible, affordable and comprehensive family planning and reproductive health care. Protecting the safety of the providers of that care is integral to this goal.

 


LEGISLATIVE AND REGULATORY UPDATES

Two Bills Reintroduced on Equal Pay Day
On Tuesday, Equal Pay Day, two bills to strengthen gender pay discrimination law were reintroduced to Congress. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) reintroduced the Fair Pay Act (H.R.1493), which would allow challenges to gender discrimination between sex-segregated jobs. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) reintroduced the Paycheck Fairness Act. This would strengthen laws preventing pay discrimination such as by forbidding employers from retaliating against workers who discuss or disclose wage practices.

AAUW is committed to supporting fairness in compensation, equitable access and advancement in employment and vigorous enforcement of employment anti-discrimination statutes. We will continue to champion these bills as we did the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act during the last congressional session.

Spending Compromise Prevents Government Shutdown
On Thursday, the House and Senate passed a bill funding the federal government until October 1 and cutting $38.5 billion in spending between now and then. As part of the agreement between the Obama administration and House Republicans that led to the vote on the spending bill, the House and Senate voted on a Republican-supported measure that would ban any federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood. Although this legislation passed the House with a vote of 241-184, it was defeated in the Senate on a procedural vote. Congress will be out on recess for the next week, and when it comes back is expected to take up the contentious issues of raising the debt ceiling and setting the budget for FY2012.

Defense STRONG Act Introduced to Combat
On Wednesday, Reps. Tsongas (D-MA) and Turner (R-OH) introduced the Defense Sexual Trauma Response Oversight and Good Governance Act. This bipartisan bill would make landmark expansions in the rights and protections of Americans who face sexual assault during military service. It comes at a time when studies reveal a growing number of women in the military—as many as one in three—are experiencing sexual trauma during their service.

AAUW applauds the introduction of this bill and stands by women in the military. For additional resources and information on sexual assault visit our Legal Advocacy Fund.

Senate Defeats Effort to Ban Funding for Women’s Health
On Thursday, after the House of Representatives passed measures to defund last year’s health care reform law and block funding for Planned Parenthood, both bills were struck down in the Senate. The votes were held as part of the budget agreement reached last weekend; neither was expected to pass, but rather required legislators to go on the record on the issues. Planned Parenthood, which provides thousands of women with preventive health services each year, has been the target of criticism and a variety of misinformation campaigns recently. However, supporters of women’s health have been highly vocal as well, with thousands of women rallying on the National Mall last week in solidarity.

Maryland Legislature Passes Own DREAM Act
On Monday, Maryland’s General Assembly passed a law to permit undocumented students to receive in-state tuition, provided they attended Maryland high schools and their parents paid taxes. Governor Martin O’Malley (D) has pledged to sign the bill into law.  Once signed into law, Maryland will be the 11th state to pass a law to allow young undocumented students the chance to obtain legal status after enrolling in college or joining the military. Many see the legislation as a reaction to the failure of Congress to pass the DREAM Act last year.

AAUW is committed to supporting a strong system of public education that promotes gender fairness, equity and diversity and advocates for increase support for, and access to, higher education for women and other disadvantaged populations.

National Women’s History Museum Moves One Step Closer to Realization
Yesterday, the National Women’s History Museum Act (S. 680) drew one step closer to passage as it was successfully voted out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. If passed, the bill would allow the National Women’s History Museum to purchase land on the National Mall and begin construction on a space to highlight women’s social, cultural, economic and political contributions to the US and the world.

Take Action! Urge your representative to cosponsor and support the National Women’s History Museum.

 


RESOURCES FOR ADVOCATES

Mink Education Foundation Grant Applications Open
The Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation for Low-Income Women and Children is offering five $2000 grants to support low-income mothers attending school or training programs.  Applications are open from May 15-July 15, 2011. Click here to apply.

Feature Your Activities on the AAUW Member Showcase
Want to share your latest program with others or get ideas for an upcoming event? Check out AAUW’s Member Showcase! The Member Showcase is a great way to let other AAUW members know what your branch or state is up to. From book sales to Equal Pay Day events, and discussion groups to garden tours, the Member Showcase is here as a resource for you!

To publicize your events, email aauwcalendar@aauw.org, or for more information, read the Member Showcase FAQ.

Sign Up Your Friends and AAUW Colleagues for Action Network!
Visit AAUW’s Take Action page of our website, where AAUW members and nonmembers alike can sign up for Action Network. It is an excellent way to introduce potential members to AAUW’s advocacy.  You can also print out flyers online.  Use flyers to sign up friends, family and coworkers to AAUW Action Network. These flyers are great to use at branch events, community events, etc.

 


UNIQUELY AAUW

Connect2AAUW
General AAUW questions? Please contact connect@aauw.org or call 800/326-2289 between 10 am and 5 pm Eastern, Monday through Friday.

2011 National Convention Registration Now Open
Registration is now open for the AAUW Convention 2011, Breaking through Barriers-Advocating for Change, June 16-19 in Washington, DC!  A highlight of this year’s convention will be the Capitol Hill Lobby Day. For information on programming, accommodations, travel, and more, visit http://convention.aauw.org.

AAUW Public Policy Fund Pins — and a Bonus
Show your support for advocacy for women and girls — and get a tax deduction.  Contribute $100 or more to the AAUW Public Policy Fund and receive the fund’s first annual pin.  Please support this crucial work with a tax-deductible contribution through our secure website.