Tuesday, March 9, 2010

International Women's Day -- How does America Compare?

by Helen Bushnell, 9to5 member and volunteer

A couple of years ago, I was teaching English at a middle school in a small town in Korea. After I had been there a year and a half, I had to leave because my mother broke her leg. Now, if I had been Korean, I would not have lost my job because I had to go back to the US to take care of my mother for a few weeks. In Korea, family is very important, and taking off to take care of family problems is often encouraged.

In Korea, maternity leave is paid, and people can seek help through the Labor Board if they are not paid correctly, loose out on a promotion or are even fired. There is currently a greater pay gap between men and women in Korea than in the US, but there is no difference in the wages that mothers and women without children make. A Korean woman with young children is on average closer in salary to her male coworkers than an American woman.

Like most developed countries, Korea offers health care to all its citizens. This makes it easier to handle illnesses since people can see a doctor the same day they get sick without having to go to the Emergency Room.

Most European countries offer even more benefits. Many countries offer paid leave to both men and women to take care of a newborn.

Yesterday was International Women's Day -- we should all take this week to reflect on the policies in America that affect women and families and on the disparities between other countries and our own. In America, it should not be the sole responsibility of women to care for their families; men also need to step up and share in this responsibility.

In the following video, one of 9to5's members in Atlanta speaks about her efforts to get her male employees to take care of their family responsibilities.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Why is the U.S. so far behind?

by Erin Bennett, Colorado Organizer for 9to5

Today, on International Women’s Day, I’ve thought a lot about the issues we work on at 9to5, especially compared to how the rest of the developed world operates. Two particular stories come to mind…

In February of 2009, 9to5 Colorado was fortunate enough to have three visitors from a women’s organization in Osaka, Japan. They were so interested to hear about all of our work, especially around paid leave. They informed us that in Japan, women can take 3 PAID days off a month for menstruation, if they wish – so they were obviously shocked that we don’t even have a standard of paid sick days for all. They told us that not many women take advantage of this opportunity, but it is there if needed.

Paid sick days are very much the same in our own country. On average, workers who do have access to paid sick days use only a couple days a year – much less than the amount they accrue. So, why accrue so many days? Just in case, like a rainy day fund. You never know when you might get sick and need to be in the hospital, or when you might get H1N1 flu and be out of work for two weeks, or when your kids get sick and you have to stay home with them.

At the very beginning of 2010, we started a Facebook group called “Support Paid Sick Days Colorado.” A man from Germany, Karl Mund, joined our group and posted his story on our wall:

As a shop-steward for most of my work-life in Germany (East and West), I never had to argue about questions like sick leave. My father's generation already succeeded in that fight, when West Germany got a law securing fully paid sick leave for 6 weeks per year with job security.

In this respect, I consider it a shame for the State of Colorado (and similarly other US-states) if such an ultra-modest demand as yours is not met with immediate approval.

Anyway, a healthy workforce is in the own interest of employers. Were they really smart, they would put pressure on State legislature even more than you folks do in order to get a decent legislation for healthy workers in healthy workplaces!

Keep up your fight, and be sure, you have my solidarity!

As the 2010 Legislative session began, this support from someone half-way around the world was much-needed motivation! An issue that Paid Sick Days is a no-brainer for the women from Osaka and for Karl. Why can’t it be for businesses and legislators in Colorado?

Why is the U.S. the only country in the developed world without Paid Sick Days? On International Women’s Day this year, we need to look to other countries and examine why we are so behind and what we can do to catch up.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Inequality Faced by Female Olympians

by Bridget Kaminetsky, Colorado Organizer at 9to5

The Olympics is one of the rare times that the world watches female athletes on national t.v. And it only comes around every two years. I was glued to the t.v., along with billions of other people to see Yu-Na Kim skate on the ice and watch Lindsey Vonn ski down the slopes. These two women, among many other powerful athletes that attended the 2010 Olympics, showed just how strong and amazing women are in sports.

Despite the phenomenal accomplishments by female Olympians across the world, women are continuously degraded at the Olympics. Most often when women Olympians appear on the front page of major magazines, the images are sexualized. So it shouldn't be too surprising that we have all become very familiar with Lindsey Vonn's name and face after her appearance in Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Edition. It's not just the images that degrades women; Women are referred to as "heartthrobs", "sexy", "flirty", etc. throughout the games and in the media that sexually harass them rather than accentuate their athletic attributes.

I also find it interesting what sports receive media coverage--we watch figure skating but female hockey does not get prime time coverage.
Did you know that 85% of female figure skaters suffer from eating disorders? (2010 Huffington Post Article) Figure skating is the most watched sport. We talk about how beautiful and sexy the skaters are. Let's face it, figure skaters are "so beautiful" and are getting mass amounts of media attention because they have starved themselves.

And don't forget that women are still not allowed to compete in all sports at the Olymics. Ski Jumping remains forbidden for women at the Winter Olympics Games. Not only does this ignore that there are women ski jumpers who are interested and competitive at this sport, denying athletes this opportunity goes against the principles of the Olympics that says discrimination based on gender should not be allowed. Visit this website to support women in this sport: http://www.wsj2010.com/

Remember to Celebrate Women's International Day March 8th!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I Rallied for Tax Fairness

by Helen Bushnell, 9to5 member and volunteer

It was cold but sunny as I hurried to the State Capital. I was worried about being on time for the rally. I did not have to worry. I arrived just as the organizers were gathering people on the Capital steps. The level of organization was impressive. Someone told us where to stand. Someone made sure that everyone had a sign that wanted one. And, of course, someone organized a group of expressive speakers.

We were gathering to support a fair budget - one that spreads the difficulties of the current economic crisis fairly.

A woman with children at Whittier Elementary in Denver spoke about the challenges facing a school with many low income children, including many who are homeless. Right now Whittier is seeing a lot of success stories - but what happens if their already super-efficient budget is cut even more?

A senior activist spoke about the cuts that have already been made to senior services in his area.

A woman with a mentally disabled son spoke. Right now her son is successful, but what happens if the services that he depends upon are cut?

Finally, a scholarship student spoke. She is currently attending Metro State, and would not be able to afford the tuition on her own.

Some businesses got tax exemptions when the economy was flush. Now, we need them to pay their fair share. People came from all over the state, from our cities, our mountains, and our plains to ask all Coloradans to ask the state legislature to close tax loop holes in addition to the services to our most vulnerable citizens that have already been cut.

I was happy to support efforts to make the budget process more fair and our tax system simpler and more equitable.

(This rally was held on at noon on February 11. It was organized by the Save Our State Coalition.)