Washington Update (March 14, 2014)
They say March comes in like a lion – and considering everything that happened this week, I think they’re right!
In this week’s issue of Washington Update, you’ll find information about new proposals from the Obama administration on overtime pay and for-profit colleges; a just-announced bipartisan Senate deal to retroactively extend unemployment insurance; a state paycheck fairness bill that unanimously passed the New Hampshire Senate; and early reports that the Senate is expected to vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act and a federal minimum wage increase – two major AAUW priorities – sometime in April.
If this week’s events show us anything, it’s that lawmakers across the country are finally starting to talk about – and in some cases, take real, meaningful action on – issues that affect women and girls. That means it’ll be up to you to hold your elected officials accountable and make sure they talk the talk and walk the walk.
We’ll keep you posted as developments unfold, and we promise to give you opportunities to make your voice heard in your community and in Washington, D.C. We hope you’ll also share with us any activities you’re organizing on these policy issues, and for Equal Pay Day as well. Together, let’s make the most of this moment and send March out like a lion, too!
Yours in AAUW,
Lisa M. Maatz
Vice President of Government Relations
The One Thing You Must Do
Who’s your boss? You may think you know, but a 2013 Supreme Court ruling changed the definition and threatens to take away your civil rights at work in the process. Tell Congress that you want your workplace rights back.
But Because You Want to Do More
Do you know your rights at work? Are you sure? Check out the AAUW Legal Advocacy Fund’s Know Your Rights at Work resource to learn more –and don’t forget to share it with your friends and family.
Just in time for cookie season, it’s National Girl Scout Week! Did you know AAUW members have a historical connection with the Girl Scouts?
Read AAUW’s blog post, and share it on Facebook with the following text:
Happy Girl Scouts Week! Did you know that AAUW members have traditionally served as mentors to Girl Scouts attempting a Gold Award? Let’s keep this tradition going. http://bit.ly/N4s3f3
The 2014 edition of The Simple Truth about the Gender Pay Gap is out! It has new data about the pay gap, including numbers about how the gap grows as women get older and the pay gap by race and education levels. Check it out online, and don’t forget to order hard copies from ShopAAUW – all you pay is shipping!
Is your state failing college students? A new report from Young Invincibles grades states on higher education issues such as spending and tuition costs.
Department of Education Releases Proposed Gainful Employment Regulation
Today the Department of Education released a long-awaited proposed regulation to define gainful employment among career training programs. The goal of this regulation is to ensure that students at certain certificate and credential programs are employable and able to pay back their student loans – something that we know affects women in particular. In many cases, particularly among for-profit institutions, students are saddled with overwhelming debt and a meaningless credential. While the proposed regulation is over 800 pages long and still being analyzed, it appears that a few AAUW-supported provisions are missing – including a repayment rate calculation and relief for borrows whose programs fail. The regulation is now open for public comment for 60 days and AAUW will be weighing in with the Department of Education during that time.
Senators Announce Deal to Extend Unemployment Benefits
On Thursday, a bipartisan group of 10 senators announced they had reached a deal to restore and extend expired unemployment insurance benefits. Since Congress allowed the emergency unemployment compensation program to lapse at the end of 2013, more than 2 million people have lost these critical benefits. The proposal would retroactively restore the benefits for the first three months of the year and extend the benefits through the end of May. The deal is expected to pass in the Senate.
- AAUW strongly supports an extension of unemployment insurance benefits. This economy is rough enough, and Congress shouldn’t make it harder on already struggling families. Once the Senate passes this extension, it moves on to the House: Urge your representative to pass this much-needed extension.
White House Announces Working Families Summit, Changes to Overtime Policy
At a Wednesday meeting with women lawmakers, President Barack Obama announced that the White House will hold a Summit on Working Families on June 23, 2014. In addition to the Washington, D.C. summit, which AAUW is helping to plan, the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau will hold regional summits across the country. Following Wednesday’s meeting, President Obama ordered Secretary of Labor Tom Perez on Thursday to begin revising regulations to increase the number of workers eligible for overtime pay.
- We’d love AAUW members to be a visible force at the regional events leading up to the White House Summit on Working Families – and we’ll even get you stickers and other fun stuff to pass out! Stay tuned for more information.
State Spotlight: New Hampshire
NH Senate Unanimously Passes Paycheck Fairness Bill
On Thursday the New Hampshire Senate unanimously passed a state version of the Paycheck Fairness Act. This legislation would strengthen the state’s current pay discrimination law and encourage businesses to end gender pay discrimination in the workplace. It would also strengthen penalties for equal pay violations and prohibit retaliation against workers who ask about or share salary information. The bill now moves on to the House, which has already passed a similar measure.
Cheer of the Week
In remarks this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said the Senate will likely hold a procedural vote on the AAUW-supported Paycheck Fairness Act in April in conjunction with an attempt to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. A recent White House report found that raising the minimum wage would narrow the gender wage gap by nearly five percent.
- Tell your senators to support the Paycheck Fairness Act!
Jeer of the Week
The Indiana Senate passed legislation that would undo the state’s adoption of the Common Core Standards and set in motion a process to develop replacement standards. AAUW strongly supports the Common Core Standards and believes proper implementation will be critical to their success.
Bits and Pieces
- On Monday, the Senate voted 97-0 for legislation that would change sexual assault policies in the military while keeping the chain of command intact. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) led the push for this legislation.
- On Tuesday, Republican candidate David Jolly narrowly won the special election in Florida’s 13th district, beating his Democratic opponent Alex Sink in the race to replace the late Rep. Bill Young (R). Jolly was sworn into Congress on Thursday.
- The U.S Supreme Court declined to hear a case on student free speech. High school students had sued for the right to wear breast cancer awareness bracelets bearing the message “I (heart sign) boobies.” The Supreme Court’s decision means that the lower court ruling upholding the students’ free speech rights will stand.
- AAUW signed an amicus brief supporting the student’s free speech rights.
- U.S. Rep. Ron Barber (D-AZ) introduced the Women’s Bill of Economic Rights. This bill has been co-sponsored by 32 House members so far and supported by numerous women’s organizations, including AAUW.
- A study by U.S. businesses schools found that investors are more likely to invest in entrepreneurial pitches when the pitch is made by a man.