Washington Watch

December 20, 2018
Women holding protest signs on Capitol Hill, including "Women's voices for women's choices" and "Be bold for change."

AAUW shows its support for women’s rights in Washington, D.C.

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AAUW remains a trusted and powerful voice in the nation’s capital, advocating for gender equity. These are the major accomplishments of 2018.

Congress

  • AAUW monitored over 100 pieces of federal legislation in the 115th Congress. We spoke out in support of proposed legislation to tighten equal pay laws, submitted testimony to Congress in support of paid leave, fought policies that would make college less affordable, and helped work on legislation to eliminate workplace harassment. We also participated in rallies on Capitol Hill in support of immigrant students and their access to education, in support of voting rights, and in opposition to harmful nominees to the Supreme Court.
  • We opposed the Senate confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court based on his record of opposition to core AAUW values. Our advocates sent 6,400 emails and made more than 2,700 phone calls to their senators opposing the nomination.
  • Our Action Fund Lobby Corps volunteers made more than 1,500 visits to Capitol Hill, playing a significant role in finding new supporters and sponsors for equal pay bills, among other legislation. AAUW Two-Minute Activists in all 50 states sent over 200,000 messages to state and federal legislators advocating for AAUW priority issues.

The Administration

  • We met with executive branch staff to advocate against proposed changes to Title IX’s regulations regarding sexual harassment in schools, as well as other actions that would roll back protection of students’ civil rights.
  • AAUW advocated for the administration to reinstate collection of compensation data based on race, ethnicity, and gender. The administration had halted this important data collection which would have helped to better identify wage discrimination and encourage voluntary compliance by companies this critical collection.

The Courts

  • Our Legal Advocacy Fund held two calls this year explaining the impact of important cases before the nation’s highest court. We hosted a Supreme Court review call explaining key civil and women’s rights cases from the 2017-18 term — including decisions on labor, reproductive, LGBT, and voting rights — and a preview call highlighting some cases on AAUW priority issues that may come before the Court in the 2018-19 term.
  • AAUW signed on to 17 amicus briefs this past year on cases challenging laws that limit economic security, restrict access to education, and weaken civil rights protections.
  • We continued our support for plaintiff Aileen Rizo in her fight for fair pay, as she appealed her case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Rizo v. Fresno County Office of Education. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the use of prior salary cannot justify a wage differential between male and female workers under the Equal Pay Act of 1963. This was an important victory, as reliance on prior pay (which may have been tainted by discrimination) can prevent women from receiving fair pay in new positions.

Looking ahead to 2019

As we survey what’s on the horizon, we anticipate that our advocacy efforts next year will include:

  • Working with the new Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. This important bill updates and strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to close loopholes that have weakened the bill over time. It provides new tools to battle the pervasive pay gap and provides employers with effective incentives and technical assistance to comply with the law. We will also work to advance other bills related to economic security and educational opportunities for women and girls, including the Pay Equity for All Act, the Fair Pay Act. the Patsy T. Mink and Louise M. Slaughter Gender Equity in Education Act (GEEA), and legislation to end sexual harassment in the workplace.
  • Opposing efforts by the U.S. Department of Education to change Title IX rules that would diminish protections for survivors of sexual harassment, assault and violence on schools and campuses. Thousands of activists have committed to helping us in those efforts. We will also remain vigilant, watching for any new attempts to roll back other civil rights protections the federal agencies are charged with enforcing
  • Continuing to urge the administration and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reinstate a policy of collecting compensation data based on race, ethnicity, and gender. This data is necessary to better identify wage discrimination.
  • Continuing to work with plaintiff Aileen Rizo, whose Equal Pay Act case may be before the Supreme Court this term.
Deborah J. Vagins By:   |   December 20, 2018