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
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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.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Denver Paid Sick Days Initiative: Are the costs too high to offer paid sick days to all employees?

On Monday, May 9th Campaign for a Healthier Denver launched their campaign to win Paid Sick Days for Denverites. If you would like to stay up to date with this campaign check out their website, or if you have facebook "like" the page. We had great media coverage, here is one of the best articles explaining why Paid Sick Days is necessary. The original article can be seen by clicking here.

Yesterday, Campaign for a Healthy Denver launched what it's calling the 2011 Denver Paid Sick Days Initiative, which would mandate paid sick days for all non-governmental workers in Denver, be they full-time or part-time employees. But given the state of the economy, isn't this a terrible time to introduce such a measure? Hardly, says one backer.

"The economy is actually one of the reasons why it's the right time to be doing this," argues Erin Bennett, Colorado director of 9to5, the National Association of Working Women, who spoke at a 16th Street Mall rally that launched the initiative drive. "We know working families have been especially hurt by the economy. To worry about losing a day's pay or not being able to make a month's rent just because you're sick is something working families can't afford."

paid sick days rally photo.JPG
Campaign for a Healthy Denver
​What about businesses already griping about additional financial obligations from federal health-care regulations?

"We have a number of business owners in our coalition," Bennett points out. "Yes, there is some administrative cost, and there's the cost of offering sick days for employees. But the benefits of not having sick workers on the job, of increased work-force productivity and decreased turnover from not having to replace employees far outweighs the cost. Any business owner who offers sick days will tell you that."

Such folks represent the majority here, but barely. The campaign estimates that nearly 40 percent of Denverites receive no paid sick days, and that number skyrockets for toilers in the restaurant industry. Approximately 72 percent of such workers in Denver don't get paid sick days, according to the campaign -- a little better than the national average of 80 percent, but still problematic considering the incentive for people handling food to punch the clock whether they're sick or not.

Not that Bennett expects every business organization to get behind the campaign's proposal. But she believes "most of the business organizations that oppose paid sick days are the ones that oppose any mandates on business whatsoever" -- and they can be won over by positive experiences. She references San Francisco, "where the policy has been in place the longest," she allows. "The restaurant association there was opposed to the initiative as it was moving forward, but since then, they've come out and said it wasn't a big deal -- that it wasn't hard to implement and it was good for public health and business."

The campaign portrays the initiative as quite modest. Paid sick leave would be capped at nine days per year for full-time workers and pro-rated for part-timers -- and businesses with fewer than ten employees would only have to offer five days of paid sick leave for full-time employees.

Bennett and her crew still have to go through the petition-gathering process in order to place the initiative on the ballot. But she's confident voters will back it. In San Francisco, the paid-sick-leave measure garnered 61 percent support, while a similar initiative passed in Milwaukee with 69 percent of the vote -- and that makes sense to Bennett. "In the long run," she says, "people realize this clearly pays off."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Popular Milwaukee Law Continues to Serve as an Example for Paid Sick Day Legislation Nationwide

Madison, WI—In the latest attack on Wisconsin families, Governor Walker signed a bill today that seeks to undermine local control statewide and attempts to nullify the Milwaukee paid sick days law, approved by nearly 70% of city voters in 2008. Just a few weeks ago, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals issued a decision to uphold the law.

“The override of the Milwaukee sick days aw is an assault on democracy, local control, and working families,” said Dana Schultz, Lead Organizer for 9to5, National Association of Working Women. “Voters can see that the Governor and State Legislature are more committed to paying back their corporate donors than creating good jobs for Wisconsin.

Despite the actions by Walker and state lawmakers, advocates pointed to the growing efforts to enact paid sick days bills in other cities and states, efforts that were inspired by the groundbreaking Milwaukee law. In Philadelphia, a paid sick days bill was passed out of a City Council committee a few weeks ago, and in Connecticut, the state legislature is moving forward on a bill with bipartisan support. Paid sick days legislation in New York City has 35 City Council sponsors, legislation is about to be introduced in Seattle, and more than a dozen states have coalitions advocating actively for paid sick days and paid family leave policies. San Francisco and Washington, DC have already implemented paid sick days laws.

“Across the country, cities and states are passing paid sick day laws to protect working people and public health and help strengthen local economies,” said Schultz. “We’re proud that Milwaukee’s win helped spur those campaigns. The anti-worker majority in Madison may try to stop Milwaukee’s victory, but they can’t stop this movement.”

Schultz also pointed to continued work by the coalition supporting national paid sick days legislation. And 9to5 is working with small businesses in Milwaukee to promote voluntary adoption of family-friendly policies.

The bill (AB41/SB 23) signed by Governor Walker is designed to steal the Milwaukee victory and preempt local governments and voters from enacting similar legislation. The bill passed the Assembly in a near party-line vote of 59 to 35; the state Senate passed it with no debate when the Democratic senators were still absent in early March.

“Wisconsinites need a government that works for the people that elected them, not for a narrow group of corporate interests,” said Sheila Cochran, Milwaukee Area Labor Council President. “The Governor and his associates have disregarded the will of the voters, the decision of the court and opened the door to reverse local control wherever they see fit.”

Wisconsin has a rich history of local governance, in which municipalities enact legislation that addresses the needs of their communities. In 2008, nearly 70% of Milwaukee voters approved a law to provide paid sick days for workers in the city. A few weeks ago, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals issued a decision to uphold the law, which would provide 120,000 Milwaukee families who do not have paid sick days of the freedom to take care of ill family members without fear of losing their jobs or a paycheck.

As the Court of Appeals said in its ruling upholding the ordinance, “With respect to paid versus unpaid sick leave, it is reasonable to conclude that paid sick leave will induce more employees to take time off work when necessary for their health and the health of their families.”
New research on similar laws in other cities shows significant benefits for workers and minimal impact on businesses. A study last month of San Francisco’s paid sick days law shows business concerns about job loss were unfounded, with six in seven employers saying that paid sick days have had no negative effect on profitability and two-thirds of employers surveyed supporting the law. Other studies have shown that employees are healthier and more productive when they have access to paid sick days.

Proponents of AB 41 claim the bill provides a uniform statewide family and medical leave policy (FMLA), but sponsors made clear the measure was designed explicitly to overturn the Milwaukee paid sick day law. The state and federal FMLA laws that have been in effect since 1988 and 1993, respectively, provide a policy for longer-term sick leave, but do not cover time off for routine illness or medical needs related to diagnosis, preventative care, or to seek services to deal with the horror of domestic or sexual assault. FMLA also applies only to companies of 50 or more; half the workforce is not covered. And the time is unpaid.

The large and diverse Paid Sick Days Coalition, led by 9to5, includes labor groups, health groups, civil rights and faith organizations, advocates for children and jobs and an end to domestic violence.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Arizona-Style Laws An Attack on Women and Children

In response to frustration with the federal government’s lack of a coherent immigration policy, state legislatures across the country are considering several Arizona-style immigration bills to require or allow law enforcement officers to demand proof of immigration status from anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally. Although the well-being of women and children isn’t usually the first thing that springs to mind as an immigration issue, the reality is that these types of laws put women and children in harm’s way.

Officers could be forced to interrogate all brown-skinned people, anyone speaking in accented English or Spanish – most of whom will be American citizens or legal residents. The courts are currently reviewing the constitutionality of potentially institutionalizing racial profiling, largely blocking sections of the original Arizona law from enforcement.

Regardless of how you feel about these laws, the truth is that women and children are the ones who have the most to lose if these bills pass. Families will be torn apart, children will be traumatized, domestic violence survivors will be silenced and workplace abuse will increase. Furthermore, these bills will undermine public safety for all of us.

Tearing Families Apart: Traffic cops targeting drivers for potential deportation means mothers are taken away from their children – often children who are U.S. citizens – splitting up families in pursuit of enforcement of a broken immigration system. A mother dropping her children off at school or child care in the morning doesn’t know if she’ll be there to pick them up in the afternoon. Children have been separated from parents who are detained and eventually deported; others have been removed from their parents’ homes and placed in foster care. These families endure harsh economic and emotional hardship.

Traumatizing Children: Children experience severe psychological trauma when separated from their primary caretakers. A 2010 Urban Institute report documented this: “The vast majority of children whose parents were detained in ICE raids in the workplace and in the home exhibited multiple behavioral changes in the aftermath of parental detention, including anxiety, frequent crying, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, withdrawal and anger…Disturbingly, the children also experienced dramatic increases in housing instability and food insecurity, which are both dimensions of basic well-being.”

In a Congressional hearing, 11 year-old Heidi Ruby Portugal described her reaction after her mother was seized in Arizona, “They took away the most precious thing that children have, our mother. With one hit they took away my smile and my happiness.”

Silencing Survivors of Domestic Violence: These laws actually increase the threat to women facing domestic violence or sexual assault. Domestic violence survivors will be reluctant to call the police for fear of deportation, sometimes leading to fatal consequences. Survivors of sexual assault will avoid hospitals and services, fearing the involvement of the police. This is particularly dangerous for immigrant women who already face so many barriers, including language access and cultural stigmas that may make it less likely that they will seek services.

Discriminating Against Women in the Workplace: Abusive employers who violate wage, sexual harassment and discrimination laws – laws that protect everyone who works in our country – will benefit from these measures. Immigrant women will be vulnerable to employers using the threat of deportation to control and exploit them professionally and sexually. An Arizona-style law will silence women from speaking out, from reporting crimes and violations of workplace rights.

Undermining of Public Safety: Most police chiefs and law enforcement experts agree that public safety is hurt when trust between immigrant communities and the police is replaced by fear. If police participate in immigration enforcement programs, crime victims and witnesses will be unwilling to come forward and report crime. This makes the entire community less safe.

Our immigration system is clearly not working but our time is far better spent promoting policies that help position ALL women and families to live the American dream, like policies to help close the pay gap so women can support their children now and prepare for an economically secure retirement tomorrow, and workplace standards like paid sick days that protect jobs and income for workers when faced with illness, domestic violence and sexual assault. Let’s not pass laws that attack women and children.

-Linda Meric, 9to5 Executive Director

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Unemployment Rate Hits Middle Class Hard

By: Susan B

In July 2010, I lost my job with the Denver Public School District due to budget cuts and restructuring in the district, but I was fortunate to apply and receive unemployment benefits without issues. In October 2010, I accepted a temporary part-time position with a home delivery service. My real problems began once my job with the home delivery service ended in December 2010.

In January when the Colorado unemployment rate hit a then all time high of 9.1%, currently it’s at 9.3%, my claim got lost in the CO Dpt. of Labor and Employment. I later found out that this issue is not uncommon when there are 4,400 new UI claims made every week. Even after speaking with a UI representative at my local workforce center multiple times, it has now been over two months and I have had $0 income since February. I’m a single woman with no other income and have already used my entire savings to maintain my credit only to end up facing financial disaster.

Without UI payments I am now facing the hard reality that I will have to start defaulting on my credit card. I won’t be able to make my modest mortgage payment in a neighborhood already hit hard by mortgage defaults making my house dangerously close to being worth less than the mortgage anyway. I have payments remaining on my car and I’m not sure how I will manage to make ends meet.

It seems to me that people are being forced into financial crises regardless of how responsible they have strived to be in the past, and this makes me extremely concerned about the future for the people in Colorado. At a time when the middle class is shrinking and the unemployment rate is not projected to improve much over the next few years, the discussion of national and state budget debates should be focused on policy that will help strengthen the middle class, create good jobs, and reinvest in our social infrastructures so that we can once again be competitive in a worldwide economy.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Equal Pay Day raises call for equal wages for women

By Colleen O'Connor at the Denver Post

At the annual Equal Pay Day rally held Tuesday on the steps of the state Capitol, lawmakers, government officials, business owners and activists advocated for pay equity.

"It's striking to me that the wage gap has narrowed over the past three to four decades, but there's been no real movement," said Steven Chavez, director of the Colorado Civil Rights Division and a member of the state's Pay Equity Commission.

The wage gap has narrowed by about half a cent each year since the Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963.

Still, census data show that women who work full time make about 77 cents for every dollar made by men.African-American women make about 62 percent of what the average white man makes. For Latino women, it's about 52 percent.

In Colorado, women working full time earn on average $9,925 less each year than men, according to research released Monday by the National Partnership for Women & Families and the American Association of University Women.

This gap has cost Colorado's families more than $6.7 billion annually, it said.

In a 2010 report, the Colorado Pay Equity Commission estimated parity pay for full-time female workers would generate $3.6 billion to $11.6 billion annually, "which could provide economic stimulus through consumer spending, savings and taxation."

On Tuesday, two members of Congress re-introduced legislation to attempt to close the national wage gap. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., introduced it in the House of Representatives, and Sen. Barbara Mikulsi, D-Md., introduced it in the Senate.

Similar legislation passed the House last year but fell two votes short in a key procedural vote in the Senate.

Critics argue that wage disparities result not from discrimination but from such choices as leaving the workforce to care for children or older parents. They also cite data from the Department of Labor's Time Use survey that shows full-time working women spend an average of 8.01 hours per day on the job, compared with 8.75 hours for men.

On the other hand, proponents cite studies from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that show median weekly earnings of women are less than of men in every industry. In 2009, women's average weekly wages were $657 per week compared with $819 for men.

In fields dominated by men, like construction, women's earnings are 91 percent of men's. In fields dominated by women, like health care, women's earnings are 72 percent of men's.

"As a father and a husband, I strongly believe in equal pay for equal work," said Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., via e-mail. "I voted to bring this bill to the floor last year, and I look forward to continuing the discussion this year."

Sen. Michael Bennett, D-Colo.,who co-sponsored the bill last year, argued that equal pay is good for the economy.

"Families are still struggling to make ends meet," he said in a statement. "The last thing people can afford is to be paid less because of who they are."

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Supreme Court Considers Walmart Class Action Lawsuit

Mary Henderson is a former 9to5 board member and she will be one of our key speakers at our Pay Equity Rally on April 12th. I hope you can come and show your support to close the wage gap.

Click here to learn more about the event!!

DENVER - A Colorado woman is among the original plaintiffs of a massive class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart, claiming gender discrimination in the workplace.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in the suit, which claims that the company has a pattern of discrimination against women - refusing or delaying promotions in favor of less-qualified men.

Mary Henderson, a former Walmart employee, eventually became an assistant manager at the Colorado store where she worked - but not before seeing men promoted ahead of her.

"Our store manager promoted an unloader over me. I went to him and asked him why, and he said, 'Well, he's got a family to support. You don't.' That was the accepted way things were done."

Henderson joined the class-action suit in 2001 as one of the original plaintiffs. The case has grown to include every woman who worked for the company, about 1.5 million people. That's the problem, according to Wal-Mart. The company argues that it's impossible to prove that every woman experienced similar discrimination.

The high court is expected to decide by June if it is reasonable for the women to sue as a group or if they should pursue individual cases against the company.

The National Association for Female Executives recently named Wal-Mart one of the top 50 companies for executive women, but Henderson believes that even though things have improved it doesn't erase a historical pattern of discrimination.

"I don't think this should ever happen to another woman, period. We don't want preferential treatment. We want equal treatment."

Despite the problems, Henderson calls Wal-Mart a great corporation to work for. She left after 13 years on the job - not because of discrimination but because of health issues. She'll tell her story April 12 in Denver at a rally for equal pay at the state Capitol.

Information on the status of the case is online at

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Join 9to5 Today to Support Women's Equality!

I joined 9to5 because women still do not have the equality in the workplace that they deserve. As a student, advocate, and believer in female equality, 9to5 struck me as the most progressive organization for achieving the ultimate goals of equal wages, ending workplace discrimination, and raising support for family friendly policies. 9to5 supports individuals through our sexual harassment hotline and seeks bigger change through legislative policies. It is important to advocate for your beliefs, which is why I believe you should join 9to5 today.

9to5 is not just for women. By becoming a male member, you are establishing your support for workplace equality and fighting to end the deep system of discrimination. A male 9to5 member is fighting to protect the rights of their mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, spouses, and more.

Please become a 9to5 member during our membership drive. Your support helps maintain our Job Survival Helpline that serves thousands of women who have no where else to turn, funds our workshops, keeps us pursuing the family first legislation each year, and connects you to a community of like minded individuals who are working for a greater cause. Thanks for your support!

By Josh Murphy, 9to5 Colorado Intern

Thursday, March 24, 2011


State Legislature Seeking to Overturn Paid Sick Day Ordinance Approved by Voters, Courts

MILWAUKEEFollowing this morning’s historic Wisconsin Court of Appeals decision to uphold the Milwaukee’s paid sick day ordinance, a broad coalition of Milwaukee Alders, working people, health care advocates and good governance groups rallied at City Hall. The group gathered to call on the State Legislature to halt efforts to preempt the city’s law and to respect the court’s decision and the votes of nearly 70% of the Milwaukee electorate who approved the groundbreaking law. The court’s historic ruling lifts a two-year injunction that has halted implementation of the paid sick day law.

“Milwaukeeans have made their decision on paid sick days, and now the courts have upheld their vote,” said Dana Schultz, Lead Organizer for 9to5, the National Association of Working Women. “The State Legislature should not be trying to rob voters in Milwaukee and cities across the state of their basic right to local decision-making on sick days or any other laws.”

“Wisconsin courts are making decisions to protect working families and voters,” said Schultz. “It’s time for the State Legislature to stop its attacks on hard-working families and get to work on policies that will help create jobs and grow our economy.”

The group called on state Assembly Members to vote against the bill that would strip local municipalities of some of their legislative power. The Sick Days Scam (AB41) would preempt local governments and voters from enacting the Milwaukee paid sick day legislation, and in doing so, open the door for the State Legislature to overturn a range of legislation passed in towns and cities throughout Wisconsin. The state Senate already passed the bill with no debate when the Democratic senators were still absent in early March.

“This bill is inconsistent with Wisconsin’s tradition of local municipalities having discretion, whether through direct legislation or their own power, to shape these matters,” said Kathleen Dolan, Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “It is also inconsistent with the Republican ideology that says, ‘Leave the states alone, one size does not fit all, top down is not always the best thing.’ Here they are trying to impose a position on localities who may want to determine their own needs.”

Wisconsin has a rich history of local governance, in which municipalities enact legislation that best meets the needs of their communities. In 2008, nearly 70% of Milwaukee voters approved a law to provide paid sick days for workers in the city. The law would provide 120,000 Milwaukee families who do not have paid sick days of the freedom to take care of ill family members without fear of losing their jobs or a paycheck.

“The voters spoke in 2008. The court has now spoken,” said James H. Hall, Jr., President of the NAACP Milwaukee Branch. “From the beginning, NAACP Milwaukee Branch has supported this measure which clearly benefits working people and citizens of Milwaukee. NAACP will continue to support workers’ rights and vigorously oppose other measures that undercut the rights of all citizens of Milwaukee.”

New research on paid sick day laws in other cities shows significant benefits for workers and minimal impact on businesses. A study last month of San Francisco’s paid sick days law shows business concerns about job loss were unfounded, with six in seven employers saying that paid sick days have had no negative effect on profitability and two-thirds of employers surveyed supporting the law. Other studies have shown that employees are healthier and more productive when they have access to paid sick days.

“Providing paid sick days helps workers keep their jobs,” said Amy L. Kirkland, RN and President of Nurses & Medical Staffing, Inc. “That’s good for business owners, saves us money in turnover and health care costs, and boosts productivity.”

The Court of Appeal’s decision lifts a two-year injunction that has halted implementation of the paid sick day law. Before the law could be implemented, the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) had filed suit against the City of Milwaukee challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance. 9to5, National Association of Working Women intervened in the case and continued to defend the ordinance through the state court system.

During the rally, a number of working people spoke about the need for paid sick days. Rhonda Willette, an organizer at 9to5 Wisconsin, shared her daughter’s story. “At eight months pregnant, my daughter had an asthma attack. When she returned to work three days later with a medical statement, she was fired. She hadn’t been there long enough to qualify for FMLA. No one would hire her at eight months pregnant, and she became homeless.”


9to5 Milwaukee is a diverse, membership-based grassroots organization that strengthens the ability of low wage women to win economic justice. It has been the lead group in the broad-based Milwaukee Paid Sick Days Coalition. For more information, visit

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How I Benefited from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act

By Babs Nelson

When I was 52 years old the company where I had worked as an Administrative Assistant for 8½ years went through its third “downsizing” and I lost my job. Over the next 4 years, I worked sporadically in temporary assignments and was unable to find permanent employment. I hit my low in 2006 when a combination of poor financial decisions and the Hoarding aspect of my Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder led to the loss of the condo I had rented for 9 years. I stayed in a shelter, and after that eye-opening experience, I was lucky to be accepted by a women’s residence operated by the Volunteers of America (VOA). While there, I rejoined the world of regular 8:00 to 5:00 workers. Unfortunately, due to my perfectionism, I was not a good fit and was let go after 10 months. The VOA home closed, but I was able to move into another VOA residence that provides transitional housing for homeless women.

In November of 2009, I visited Bayaud Enterprises, a nonprofit organization that helps those with disabilities or other barriers to employment, such as homelessness, find work. Just over a week later, I was hired as the Assistant Instructor for their General Office Skills Training program. Initially, The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funded the position, and later, Bayaud hired me directly. I find the work extremely rewarding as I help students learn necessary skills, including: typing, computer programs like Word, Excel and PowerPoint, communication, and self esteem. I also sit on the Bayaud Homeless Advisory Council that works to ensure Bayaud successfully supports our homeless clients. I no longer take any blessings for granted and am grateful for each day and thankful that Recovery Act helped me reach economic security and is helping to strengthen the middle class.