Washington Update (June 13, 2014)

As a trained journalist, one of my favorite things about my work at AAUW is interviewing our members about their experiences. Recently I’ve talked to several moms about the discrimination they faced in the workplace just because they were moms.

It sounds like a joke, but it’s not. On Thursday, we marked moms’ Equal Pay Day, the symbolic point in the year where mothers’ earnings catch up to fathers’ earning from the previous year. It takes almost an extra six months because working mothers typically are paid 69 cents for every dollar working fathers are paid.

This affects people like Brittany, who makes almost $20,000 less than the median salary of similar positions in her area. She knows she is not alone, as statistics show that being both African-American and a mother typically widens an already unacceptable gender wage gap.

The mom’s wage gap hit Melissa, who was paid $11,000 less than her male predecessor. It hit Eileen, who was told she was paid less than a male co-worker because “he had a family to support.” As she put it to her boss, “He has a wife and a dog. I have a husband and a son. Is my son worth less than his dog?”

These stories are why AAUW keeps pushing for fair pay for all women. They’re whywe keep calling on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act – so that women have the tools to fight back against unfair pay and discrimination. Take a lesson from Brittany, Melissa, and Eileen, who fight harder because of the injustice. I know I will.

Yours in AAUW,

Liz Owens,
Political Media Manager

P.S. Do you have a story to share? Tell us about your experienceso we can demonstrate the need for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act!


In the June 6, 2014, edition of Washington Update, we misspelled the name of one of the Title IX champions AAUW will recognize on June 17. The honorees at that reception will be Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA). Rep. Miller’s first name was misspelled in the original edition.

In the June 6, 2014, edition of Washington Update, we incorrectly stated that Oklahoma and North Carolina had repealed the Common Core standards. In fact, it was Oklahoma and South Carolina that recently repealed the standards.

We apologize for the errors and any confusion we may have caused.

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In addition to Moms’ Equal Pay Day, this week also included the 51st anniversary of the Equal Pay Act – landmark legislation that is in sore need of an update. Contact your senators today and urge them to bring our nation’s equal pay laws in the 21st century!


Moms aren’t the only ones struggling – dads, adults with aging family members, and many others in our communities lack the support needed to manage job and family obligations. That’s why AAUW supports the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act), which would create a national paid family and leave insurance program funded by employee and employer contributions. Urge your elected officials to support the FAMILY Act, for all of our nation’s families and businesses!


In honor of Father’s Day and in recognition of the great dads in our lives who encourage their daughters, AAUW’s archivist presented some of the most interesting AAUW father-daughter combinations from our archives. Read about supportive dads who helped their daughters make history, and share the blog post on Facebook or Twitter!


  • As you read in last week’s opening message, AAUW is celebrating the 42nd anniversary of the passage of Title IX all month long! You can celebrate this landmark legislation by spreading the word about Title IX in your community using our newly updated Program in a Box.
  • The Vera Institute of Justice releaseda new screening tool to help law enforcement and victim service organizations identify potential victims of sex and labor trafficking. The 30-topic questionnaire was developed and tested in collaboration with 11 victim service organizations.


President Obama Signs Executive Order on Student Loan Repayments
On Monday, AAUW was at the White House as President Barack Obama signed an executive order expanding the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan to more student borrowers. Under the order, the Department of Education will amend student loan regulations so that individuals who took out loans before October 2007 or stopped borrowing in October 2011 will be able to cap their loan repayments at 10 percent of their income under IBR. Making this type of repayment plan more available is likely to benefit women, who typically have a higher student loan debt burden because of the gender pay gap. The president’s order will also establish a pilot program for loan counseling within the Department of Education.

  • During his remarks on Monday, President Obama announced his support for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) bill which would have allowed millions of borrowers to refinance their student loans – sadly, you’ll have to look at the Jeer of the Week to see what happened with that AAUW-supported legislation…

Five States Held Primary Elections on Tuesday
In one of the most surprising primary election upsets in Congressional history, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was soundly defeated by his Tea Party opponent, Professor David Brat, in Virginia’s 7th District. However, the Tea Party was not as successful in South Carolina, where Sen. Lindsey Graham handily won his primary and avoided a runoff against any of his six challengers. In a crowded Democratic gubernatorial primary, a plurality of Nevada voters chose “none of these candidates” over the next top vote-getter, Robert Goodman (although by law, Goodman will face Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval in the general election because he received the next highest percentage of votes). Also in Nevada, Lauren Scott, a transgender woman, secured the Republican nomination for a state assembly seat; if Scott wins the general election in November, she could be the first openly transgender state legislator in the country (another transgender woman is running in a Maryland Senate Democratic primary). Voters in North Dakota decided to extend the filing period for ballot measures from 90 days before an election to 120 days to give officials more time to review the petition signatures. Over the weekend, former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillispie won the Republican nomination to challenge Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA).

Senate Passes Legislation to Increase Veterans’ Access to Health Care
On Wednesday, the Senate voted 93-3 to pass legislation meant to increase veterans’ access to health care and increase accountability in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The Senate bill will be conferenced with similar House legislation in what most expect to be a quick process before the bill heads to President Obama’s desk for signature. This legislation represents a rare show of bipartisan cooperation to tackle the problems facing the VA after several high-profile scandals. The proposed legislation will provide funding for more doctors, nurses, and new VA facilities, and it will allow veterans to seek private health care outside of the VA system if wait times are too long.


Missoula County Attorney’s Office Agrees to DOJ Recommendations on Sexual Assault
The Missoula County Attorney’s Office will take steps to improve its response to sexual assaults and eliminate gender-biased practices as part of an agreement announced Tuesday by the Department of Justice. Such reforms include implementing sexual assault training for prosecutors, tracking and sharing data, and improving communication and public outreach. This agreement came about as a response to the alleged mishandling of sexual assault cases at the University of Montana. Earlier this year, the Missoula County Attorney rejected a previous set of recommendations, claiming that the federal department has no authority over the county’s actions.


On Tuesday, New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) signed a law that will allow clinics that provide abortions to set up buffer zones of up to 25 feet around their entrances. The law, which will take effect in 30 days, was written in response to complaints of protestors harassing patients at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Manchester. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of a similar Massachusetts law later this month.


On Wednesday, a minority of senators blocked debate on Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) student loan refinance bill by a 56-38 vote (60 votes were needed to proceed to a debate). The legislation would have allowed millions of graduates to refinance their student loans with lower interest rates. Student debt has become one of the biggest challenges in higher education, as the total amount of outstanding student debt in the United States has surpassed $1 trillion.


  • Led by State University of New York Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, a group of higher education leaders and administrators has formed a coalition called Higher Ed for Higher Standards to support the Common Core standards and counter misinformation about them. The coalition feels the standards are necessary to prepare students for college-level work – as does AAUW.
  • On Tuesday the Department of Education and Department of Justice released a report showing that the rate of serious crime on college campuses has decreased while disciplinary actions regarding drugs and alcohol have increased (up from 132 to 162 out of every 10,000 students since 2001). This data does not necessarily indicate that students are committing more crimes; rather, it suggests universities are more aggressively taking action against campus crime.
  • A group of Democratic legislators responded with outrage to Washington Post columnist George Will’s recent op-ed on sexual assault, in which he shot down efforts to curb sexual assault, questioned the frequency of the assaults, and suggested that being a survivor is a “coveted status that confers privileges.” In the letter, Senators Blumenthal (CT), Feinstein (CA), Baldwin (WI), and Casey (PA) wrote: “… your writing, which purports to be based on accurate facts and figures, has not only shown a fundamental disrespect to survivors, but also includes a harmful rhetoric that has made addressing this issue so difficult.”
    o See AAUW’s Lisa Maatz speak on this issue on HuffPost Live.
  • On Thursday, a new ACT report found an increase in the number of Hispanic teens taking the pre-college exam. However, the report found that only 14 percent of the Hispanic students met the college-ready benchmarks in all four subject areas. These findings demonstrate the increased interest among minority students in obtaining post-secondary education, but also the academic lag many students must overcome to be successful.
  • On Tuesday, Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigators reported a wide disparity in the way Veterans Affairs benefits workers handle claims related to military sexual assault. The extent of variation between regional offices was the main cause of concern, with one office approving 88 percent and another approving only 14 percent of claims. This variation is especially problematic since post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) claims related to military sexual trauma are denied at a higher rate than PTSD claims related to other triggers.

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