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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