Thursday, August 4, 2011

The High Cost of the Debt Ceiling Deal

This week Congress reached a deal to extend the national debt ceiling to avoid a government default. the debate on the debt ceiling played out until the last hours before a decision had to be made. Because some hard-line legislators were willing to allow an economic catastrophe rather than increase revenues by taxing the wealthiest in the country, the end compromise included drastic cuts to crucial social safety nets for the most vulnerable in our communities.

Where are the Cuts?

The current legislation calls for over $900 billion in cuts over the next ten years and $1.5 trillion in budget reductions that will be determined by a new joint committee of Congress. If Congress fails to adopt the joint committee's recommendations then automatic cuts will take effect starting 2013. Fifty percent of the cuts will come from each defense and non-defense spending. Judging by the drawn-out political power struggle for the initial deal, we should expect series of difficult battles to protect the neediest members of our society.

The National Women's Law Center stated this week, "The debt ceiling deal averts the disaster of default but at a painful and unfair price. The deal would cut domestic discretionary programs--programs such as Head Start, K-12 education, Title X family planning, job training, domestic violence prevention, meals-on-wheels, and other services for vulnerable people...but not touch a penny of the tax breaks enjoyed by millionaires and corporations."

What's Next?

The attacks on our families, friends, and communities are deeply disturbing. Nowhere in this discussion are plans for rebuilding the economy and creating jobs. The fight for programs that support low and moderate income workers and their families, as well as the huge number of unemployed, is not over.

As the budget debate continues, 9to5 will increase our efforts to speak up in support of rebuilding the economy, creating quality jobs, and ensuring a safety net for our most vulnerable neighbors.

For more details and a thoughtful analysis of the Debt Ceiling Debate:

National Women's Law Center

Coalition On Human Needs

Food Research and Action Center

Friday, July 29, 2011

I work with the sick and elderly and dont get paid sick days

By: Patricia Hughes

I am a home care nurse who works two jobs, goes to school full time, and I have no access to paid sick days. When I get sick, I have to choose between going to work and paying my rent. Because of this lack of access I have a risk of illness for my patients and a risk for complications for myself. My patients are immunocompromised and my taking care of them sick means I put them at risk of death. According to a report by the Harvard Medical School 45,000 Americans die each year due to lack of access to health care. Women are primarily in charge for taking on the health care responsibilities for their families, and without access to paid sick days the children of the United States are going to suffer, because is mom is sick and kids are sick and they cannot afford to time off of work to go to the doctor they are putting children are risk for severe illness and possible hospitalization and that will drive up health care costs astronomically. In the long run it saves everyone money if people have access to paid sick days.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

9to5 Rejects Budget Cuts Disproportionately Affecting Women

Reposted from 9to5 National Blog

The Honorable John Boehner
The Honorable Harry Reid
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
The Honorable Mitch McConnell

The U.S. Congress Capitol Building
Washington, DC

Dear Mr. Speaker, Majority Leader Reid, Minority Leader Pelosi, and Minority Leader McConnell:

We, the undersigned members of the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO), write to express our grave concern about the impact of deep budget cuts on women. We are alarmed both at the extent of proposed funding reductions in social safety net programs and at the extreme measures being discussed to drastically reduce federal spending for the long term. If adopted, such measures could reverse our economic recovery, increase already high levels of unemployment, and severely restrict the federal government's ability to help those who are vulnerable.

From what we understand about the proposed budget cuts, those most vulnerable –women, low-income earners, children, and seniors—will suffer the brunt of the spending cutbacks. Millions of women depend on government programs to keep them from falling into poverty; millions more rely on government employment and are in jobs dependent on government spending.

While men have recovered 24 percent of the jobs they lost during the recession, women have recovered only 14 percent of the jobs they lost. The federal government’s failure to create a robust jobs program means that many more women will lose their jobs as state and local governments reduce their workforces. Now more than ever, older women need the support of programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Many women cannot find employment at older ages, do not have pensions, and have been unable to save sufficiently because of time spent in caregiving, wage discrimination, and other factors.

The average monthly Social Security check for women is about $1,000, and a substantial proportion of retired women –particularly the very elderly and widowed – do not have any other source of income and exhaust their savings in later years. These factors make proposed changes such as raising the full retirement age for Social Security extremely harmful to older women, who rely on the program for a greater share of their income than older men. Women of color, who experience an even larger wage gap, are especially at a disadvantage when the retirement age is raised. Combined with rising premiums for Medicare Part B, an increase in the full retirement age would result in benefits replacing a smaller portion of recipients’ past earnings, forcing them to forcing them to reduce their standard of living substantially, since many simply do not have other income.

Some political leaders have recently proposed using the chained Consumer Price Index (CPI) in determining Social Security and other benefits, mistakenly calling it a more accurate measure of inflation to calculate the cost-of-living adjustment in benefits. In fact, living costs have been rising faster for seniors because they spend more on medical care, and health care costs have increased more rapidly in recent decades than the costs of other goods and services. Switching to the chained CPI would add to the financial burden many retirees face by reducing monthly Social Security benefits, an especially problematic change for older Americans because other sources of income decline with age.

Women would also suffer from proposed budget cuts to Medicaid and other crucial social services. Medicaid covers 70 percent of those in nursing homes, including the disabled and elderly; most residents of nursing homes are women. Moreover, if cuts to Medicaid and Medicare occur, women will bear the brunt of caregiving, taking even more time off from work to care for children and elders—which will reduce their future Social Security benefits. Women also would be significantly affected by cuts to vital programs and services such as family planning, work training, child care, schools, and education.

We urge policymakers working on the budget negotiations to place women’s circumstances and concerns at the center of their analysis and response. This means developing a robust jobs program to address the difficulties women face, especially now as a result of the lagging recovery. It means acknowledging the real causes of the federal budget deficit—two unpaid-for wars, an unpaid-for prescription drug program, continued tax breaks for the richest Americans and a debilitating recession that resulted in massive job loss and lost revenues to governments at all levels. It means examining revenue enhancers as a means of reducing the federal debt. And it means finding ways to safeguard and strengthen the social programs that will help ordinary people recover from the extraordinary recession.

The National Council of Women’s Organizations, composed of more than 240 organizations representing more than 12 million women, expresses its concern for all women—especially older and low-income women—in the face of the upcoming budget decisions by launching a new social media campaign, “Respect, Protect, Reject.” The campaign aims to highlight the vital importance of reaching a budget result that will:

Respect women’s contributions to the economy and their need for economic security.

Protect Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and programs that disproportionately serve and employ women.

Reject budget plans that threaten the economic security of women.

We strongly urge policymakers to craft a national budget that will fulfill these goals.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Guest Commentary: Wal-Mart and gender discrimination

Reposted from:

Coloradan Mary Henderson is devastated that justice still has not been served, 10 long years after she, Betty Dukes, and other women workers filed a sex discrimination case against Wal-Mart. The U.S. Supreme Court decided on Monday that these women could not join together as a "class" against Wal-Mart for gender discrimination in pay and promotion. The decision is crushing for the 1.6 million current and former women Wal-Mart workers who experienced discrimination first-hand and must now pursue legal claims one at a time.

Mary was paid thousands of dollars less than a man with less education and the same seniority in the same position. Her daughter, also a Wal-Mart employee, applied for a supervisory job that ended up going to a man because "he had a family to support" - even though she was supporting her family, as well. When Mary inquired about this, she was punished with transfer to a store requiring an hours-long commute.

Mary was not alone. The case contains thousands of pages of disturbing evidence documenting pervasive gender stereotypes, statistical pay and promotion disparities, and policies that allowed those stereotypes to negatively influence employment decisions affecting women throughout the company. It is an outrage that the court did not provide full justice for these women.

This decision does not exonerate Wal-Mart for discriminatory practices, but it does create a huge burden for those who have experienced discrimination. Allowing the world's largest employer to engage in wholesale discriminatory practices and then take on each woman (with high-priced lawyers and stalling tactics) by herself is bad law and just plain wrong.

But this case still presents an opportunity for Wal-Mart to update its corporate culture, as well as a lesson to other companies to do the same. Businesses that are inclusive of women - and people of color - are better positioned to compete in an increasingly global economy. But retaining these employees depends on taking positive steps to make sure discrimination never happens, like:

Ban on Stereotypes. Notions that women are inferior to men, are uninterested in career advancement and would be better off "barefoot and pregnant," as one Wal-Mart manager allegedly stated, are just not true. Make sure your workplace is a stereotype-free zone so all feel comfortable and able to be productive members of a real team.

Pay and Promotions. The Wal-Mart women demonstrated disparities in pay and promotion, a no-no. Businesses should conduct human resources self-audits of pay and promotion equity. If women are paid less for equal skills and experience, fix it immediately. Be vigilant in ensuring that pay differentials are due to solely to credentials, experience and responsibilities, not sex, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion or gender identity.

Trust and Transparency. Policies prohibiting employees from discussing pay don't work, as Wal-Mart found out when women there discovered they were regularly paid less than men. HR invitations to air complaints on the job should never be twisted into retaliation as happened when a Wal-Mart manager told female employees alleging discrimination, "I can fire you, without taking any steps, for using the (O)pen (D)oor (POLICY)." The most productive workplaces are those where employers create trusting relationships and adhere to fair policies.

Now is the time for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to prevent the abuse that the women of Wal-Mart described

in court documents. The bill will protect employees by allowing them to discussing wages with their peers and prohibit employers from retaliating against those raising wage-equity issues. The persistent pay gap between men and women for the same work must be addressed.

This case has educated the public about employer responsibilities and employee rights in the workplace, even if the women were not able to seek justice as a group. All companies, including Wal-Mart, must be fair to all employees - men and women alike.

Linda Meric is the executive director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women, a national membership-based organization of low-income women working to improve policies on issues that directly affect them. EDITOR'S NOTE: This is an online-only column and has not been edited.

Read more:Guest Commentary: Wal-Mart and gender discrimination - The Denver Post
Read The Denver Post's Terms of Use of its content:

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Young Women Need Paid Sick Days (Too)

Cross posted from the Institute for Women's Policy Research blog.

While some workers lacking paid sick leave can take time off without losing pay, many lose pay when they are out sick and cannot afford to take a single day off. This is particularly the case for young women. At an early stage in their careers, many younger women workers are living day to day and others juggle multiple jobs to make ends meet. With limited wealth and savings, a large debt from college or even a steady income, younger women often find themselves between a rock and a hard place when illness strikes. Younger women are often not in a position to take lower pay when sick, especially when medical expenses are involved.

While part-time and low-income workers’ concerns are widely discussed, the needs of younger workers are almost unheard of, as it is usually assumed that their health status—without the burdens of chronic health conditions and age—is excellent, and that they don’t yet have care giving responsibilities.

Data from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), however, shows that young workers need paid sick days just like everyone else. In fact, of those private sector workers that reported having fair or poor health, 30 percent were 35 years or younger and a larger portion were young women (18 percent compared to 12 percent for young men). The same data show that a majority of young workers lack paid sick days; only 37 percent have paid sick days, compared to 58 percent of all workers.

Across the board, younger workers have limited access to paid sick days, no matter what they do for living, what their schedule looks like, or the size of the business they work for. For instance, whether young workers are employed in high-end jobs like legal occupations or in lower paying occupations like health support, data from the NHIS show that only one out of five workers with paid sick days in those occupations are between 18 and 35 years old.

For younger workers concentrated in traditionally low-income occupations or small businesses, the picture is even grimmer. Along with part-timers, these workers are most often afflicted, and women are overrepresented in this type of work arrangement. The outlook is especially challenging for young women with care giving responsibilities on top of lower earnings: paid sick days are even more essential for them to to stay afloat. For single mothers, usually with limited resources and often living in poverty, having paid sick days can make a big difference when medical problems arise.

Paid sick days are essential to all workers, but even more so to those with limited resources, including younger workers who are more vulnerable and have fewer resources than many of their older counterparts.

Claudia Williams is a Research Analyst with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Campaign for Paid Sick Days Launched in Denver!

Dozens of Denver residents gathered earlier this month to announce the launch of a November 2011 city municipal ballot initiative campaign to protect public health by ensuring paid sick days for all workers today, just before submitting ballot language to City Council staff and the Denver City Attorney. Nearly forty percent of Denver workers do not have access to paid sick days.

The noon gathering attracted the attention of hundreds of lunchtime customers of the area’s fast food restaurants who were handed cards explaining that most restaurants do not offer paid sick days to their employees –meaning many of those workers have no choice but to go to work sick. Seventy-two percent of Denver food service workers do not have paid sick days – and 80% of restaurant workers nationally report going to work while suffering from vomiting or diarrhea rather than miss a day’s pay or face termination. Nation’s Restaurant News reported the Centers for Disease Control found that 41% of all stomach “flu” cases stem from food service establishments.

“We exchange cash with you, make your latte, hand you your pastry and yes, we sneeze,” said Laura Baker, a barista at a popular national coffee shop. “So if an employee had to come to work with the flu because she couldn’t afford to miss work, you might be walking out of the store with your double latte and the flu.”

Research shows that offering paid sick days is good for business, particularly in terms of increased productivity, workforce stability and workplace health. “We offer paid sick days to our employees because it’s a good business decision,” said Jim Bryan-Kanda, general manager of Trout’s Fly Fishing. “Our customers and other employees aren’t exposed to illness and our workplace is much more productive. It’s a win-win all the way around.”

“Almost 70% of Denver voters favor laws that protect public health by guaranteeing workers a basic standard of paid sick days in a recent poll,” said Erin Bennett, Colorado Director of 9to5 Association of Working Women. “Paid sick day policies are good for public health, for families, for workers and for businesses, too.”

Similar measures have passed in Milwaukee by 69% and San Francisco by 61% after proponents made the case that feverish and contagious workers in restaurant, childcare, and bank teller positions are a public health hazard. A recent detailed study of 59,000 businesspeople in San Francisco evaluating the five-year old paid sick days law there found that six in seven employers there say that paid sick days have had no negative effect on profitability or businesses growth and nearly 70% of employers surveyed support the law.

The Campaign for a Health Denver – a coalition of more than 40 community organizations, labor groups, faith leaders and organizations, public health groups, elected officials and businesses seeks to pass a Denver ballot initiative to protect public health by guaranteeing a basic standard of paid sick days for employees in all Denver workplaces.

Find out more about the Campaign for a Healthy Denver at their website and on Facebook.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Green Career Training for Women

My name is Pamela Pigford, I am a 56-year-old African-American lesbian and my dream is to become an Electrician.

After working as a telecommunications technician for 20 years in LA, I moved back to my hometown of Denver knowing that these skills would soon be obsolete. With the goal of getting into the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 68, Denver Joint Electrical Apprentice and Training Committee Program, I applied, tested and interviewed with Local 68 to become an electrician in June 2010. I scored very successfully and have been on a waiting list for the Apprentice Training Program since.

While waiting for acceptance into the apprenticeship, I discovered that there is free career training available in green jobs through a grant with FRESC Good Jobs Strong Communities. Last summer, I successfully completed two courses, became a Certified Energy Auditor, and obtained my BPI certification.

Since I chose to quit my job in California to pursue career training, I have not been eligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI) in Colorado, and have been living off credit cards and family support. Had I been able to receive any UI benefits, I would not be as deep in debt as I am now.

Being underemployed has dramatically impacted my lifestyle and my ability to reach economic security in any real way. Last year I explored Denver, trying to learn my way around the city and took advantage of Free Day events. Now I only leave to house to job search, interview, drug test and work at temporary jobs. I continue to use free job search resources like the Workforce Center and the Public Library, and I am anxious to find something steady to support myself. My only hope is that once given the opportunity, I will prove my determination to become a valuable employee to a truly inclusive and equal opportunity organization, and succeed in my goal of becoming an Electrician or Technician in a Green Career.