Nel's New Day

January 29, 2014

GOP Hurts Economy in Restricting Women, Wages

My email contained the following from my Oregon senator Jeff Merkley. He’s one of the reasons that I’m proud to live in Oregon:

“Lilly Ledbetter worked for Goodyear Tires for almost 20 years. Just before her retirement, an anonymous coworker left her a tip that she was being paid less than all her male coworkers in the same position. Even though Lilly proved in court that she had been paid less because of her gender, the Supreme Court ruled that her employer didn’t have to make her whole because she hadn’t brought her case when the pay discrimination began – decades before she ever knew about it.

“Fortunately, Lilly didn’t give up. She fought to change the law, and she won.

“This week is the fifth anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act being signed into law. I was proud that I got to vote for Lilly’s bill as one of my first acts as a U.S. Senator. This law is proof that even one person fighting for fairness and equality can make a huge difference. But it’s also a reminder of how far we have to go to make sure that women have equal opportunity and equal pay in the workplace.

“Women still earn only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. That is just plain wrong. It’s unfair, unequal, and it cuts into millions of families’ bottom lines. Too often, our legal system still doesn’t work for women who try to find justice in the courts. Thanks to Lilly, they no longer face unfair statutes of limitations that require them to seek justice before they might even know they face pay discrimination. But there is more work to be done. That is why I am fighting to give women stronger tools to fight wage discrimination by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act.

“In 2014, it is long past time for pay discrimination to be a thing of the past. Please know that I will keep fighting for workplace fairness for all Americans.”

Last night in his fifth State of the Union speech, President Obama addressed the same issue.

“Today, women make up about half our workforce. But they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work. She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running hardship—and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a Mad Men episode.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), as usual fact-challenged, stated during an interview on NPR today that the difference in pay between men and women is a myth. First he said that young women were making an equal salary to men, and then he followed with his belief that women make the same in the same types of jobs. Both beliefs are wrong. A 2012 study considering factors affecting earnings such as education, parenthood, and hours worked, shows that college-educated women still earn 7 percent less than their male peers just one year out of school even when they have the same major and occupation. That difference increases over time because benefits and raises based on wages are better for men. Paul’s only reason for his beliefs is that the women in his family are doing fine.

Conservatives refuse to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, although it has 207 co-sponsors in the House and 50 in the Senate. According to a recent study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, however, the U.S. economy would produce an additional $447.6 billion in income if women received equal pay—a definite boon to both men and women.

According to the new report from Maria Shriver and the Center for American Progress, closing the gap in earnings between men and women would cut the poverty rate in half for working women. Paying women who work full time, year round the same as men would boost their incomes by $6,250 a year on average. The change would raise 3 million working women above the poverty line and boost GDP by $450 billion.

A clear difference between male and female salaries is demonstrated by the Oakland Raiders. Both football players (male) and cheerleaders (female) attend practices and 300 games and events each year. The men make between $405,000 and $5.8 million; the women each make $1,250 for the season, less than $5.00 per hour. The $5.00 per hours goes down if they bring the wrong pompoms, wear the wrong workout gear to practice, or forget their yoga mats. There is also no reimbursement for travel expenses or photo shoots. The cheerleaders have just filed a lawsuit against the team for wage theft and unfair labor practices.

Increasing the minimum wage could start to decrease the wage gap between wages for men and for women. Women disproportionately work in low-wage sectors, live on minimum-wage salaries and, thanks to working a lifetime at unequal pay, are significantly more likely than men to outlive their savings. Women represent nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers. A woman working full time, year round at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour earns just $15,080. Women are the sole or primary breadwinners in roughly 40 percent of U.S. households nowadays.

Last night the president called for a minimum wage of $10.10 per hour and stated that he was signing an executive order mandating this minimum wage for all companies that receive federal contracts. This requirement does not cover existing contracts, but the mandate will affect about 560,000 employees in new contracts. Although $10.10 an hour is not a living wage almost everywhere in the United States, it’s a start.

Numbers in the story of the minimum wage:

73:  the percentage of Americans who support it.

53:  the percentage of Republicans who support it.

273:  the ratio of the average CEO salary to that of the average worker. In 1965, CEOs made only 20 times the salary of the average worker.

$10.46:  what the minimum wage would have been in 2012 if it had simply kept up with inflation since 1968.

$18.72:  what the minimum wage would have been in 2012 if it had kept pace with gains in worker productivity since 1968.

$28.34:  what the minimum wage would have been in 2012 if it had grown at the same rate as the wages of the top 1 percent since 1968.

$15,080:  the annual earnings of a full-time minimum-wage worker at today’s $7.25 per hour minimum wage, which is $4,000 below the poverty line for a family of three.

17,000,000:  the number of women, who make up approximately two-thirds of low-wage workers whose wages would rise.

28,000,000:  the number of workers whose wages would rise.

$32,600,000,000: the increase in economic activity during the period it is being phased in.

$51,000,000,000:  the increased wages that workers would earn while it is being phased in.

While conservatives ignore the needs of women and the poor, they spend their time trying to control women’s lives. Tuesday the House passed The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 7) that prevents insurance plans sold in the new health care exchanges from covering abortion and eliminates tax benefits for small businesses that purchase insurance plans covering abortion. At this time, more than 80 percent of private health insurance plans include abortion coverage.

The bill would also prevent the District of Columbia from using its own locally raised funds to subsidize abortion care for low-income women. It even bans abortions for women in state exchanges to pay for their insurance with their personal, private funds. Extremists such as Rep. Steve King (R-IA) think that they need the bill to keep taxpayer dollars from funding abortion when in fact the Hyde Amendment did that over 30 years ago.

H.R 7 will not see the light of day as long as Barack Obama is president. In Texas, however, a brain-dead woman was kept alive for over two months because a Texas law seems to allow the state to keep a pregnant woman on life support even if she had not wished for this to happen. Texas is not alone: 31 other states have laws restricting doctors’ actions regarding terminally ill women who are pregnant. The state took the woman off life support only after a court order to do so. Although the fetus had been oxygen deprived for the same length of time as the women, it took a court order to follow the wishes of the woman and her family.

In the official Republican response to the president’s State of the Union speech, Rep. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) said, “Republicans believe health care choices should be yours, not the government’s.” Rodgers voted in support of H.R. 7 which puts government in between a woman and her doctor.

Fox network women are getting fed up with their abusive colleague Erick Erickson in his attacks against Wendy Davis, famous for her 11-hour filibuster in an attempt to keep the Texas legislature from passing more extremely restrictive anti-choice laws. For the past six months, Erickson has used a number of perjoratives, including “Abortion Barbie,” against the Texas legislator. Greta van Susteren called him a “jerk” who is “really lousy at being a spokesperson for his views.” Megyn Kelley called Erickson out for his statement that women are “complementary” to men and children are hurt in families if women are the primary breadwinners.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) summed up a response to House Republicans: “My question to you is this: What century are you living in?” 

January 17, 2014

Reproductive Rights Subject of SCOTUS, House

This past week, both the federal judicial and legislative systems addressed women’s reproductive rights. The one in Congress was a direct attack while the U.S. Supreme Court just questioned whether women’s reproductive rights should be protected. Last Wednesday, SCOTUS heard oral arguments in McCullen v. Coakley about the 35-foot safety buffer zones and Massachusetts law requires about reproductive health clinics. The purpose of these zones is to help patients, doctors, and other healthcare workers enter facilities without harassment, intimidation, and violence.

Twenty years ago, the ruling in Madsen v. Women’s Health Center made a safety buffer zone constitution after SCOTUS heard the Florida case. As Feminist Majority Foundation President Eleanor  Smeal said, “We know that buffer zones aid law enforcement and reduce violence. Surveys show that buffer zones decrease criminal activity and increase safe access to clinics.” The Massachusetts zone was enacted in 2000 following years of intimidation and violence, including the 1994 murders of two clinic receptionists—Shannon Lowney, 25, and Lee Ann Nichols, 38—by anti-choice extremist Joh Salvi at two separate Brookline (MA) clinics. Five other people were wounded in the attacks.

After anti-choice demonstrators continued to crowd clinic entrances, block cars from entering driveways, and intimidate people who wanted to enter the clinic, Massachusetts strengthened its law in 2007. The law has survived challenges in lower federal courts as judges found that the law is a content-neutral, narrowly tailored time-place-manner regulation that protects the public without infringing on the First Amendment rights of others. Many acts of violence, including murders, occur as people, including a volunteer clinic escort, enter the clinics. The buffer zone provides a line of defense.

The Massachusetts law doesn’t keep people from talking to the protesters, and the protesters are permitted to say anything they want. The objection from protesters is that they aren’t permitted to get into people’s faces—or perhaps to commit violence. The face of the protesters in the court is a sweet-looking grandmother, Eleanor McCullen, who says, “I should be able to walk and talk gently, lovingly, anywhere with anybody.”

Planned Parenthood ‘s amicus brief has a different picture. According to Amanda Marcotte:

“Protesters ‘wore Boston Police Department hats and shirts and stationed themselves, carrying clipboards, at the garage entrance,’ demanding that patients give them personal information. Protesters would attack clinic escorts with umbrellas. While the prior law disallowed directly approaching patients, anti-choicers would follow them around screaming invectives, often through bullhorns. When cops were called, the protesters argued that they were just following, not ‘approaching.’ The police department itself suggested a stronger buffer zone around the front door.”

Michelle Kinsey Bruns, a Virginia-based activist who has volunteered in clinic defense in eight states, said, “Patients know it’s going to be a gauntlet, and they approach it like a combat zone.” Lori Gregory-Garrott, an escort at the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, wrote about the daily battle just trying to get patients past a wall of hostile protesters even if the patients are only picking up their birth control prescriptions. Megan, a counselor at an independent Massachusetts clinic, talked about the accusations of murder and “going to hell” that she constantly hears.

The 35-foot zone about clinics where 90 percent of the work is primary care, contraception, cancer screening, and gynecological services is far less than those for funerals, political conventions, and polling places. Catholic University law professor Mark Rienzi, representing the anti-choice demonstrators in SCOTUS, claims, “Public sidewalks are places that people are supposed to be free to exchange information and exchange ideas.” Polling places require 150 feet, and, by federal law, funerals require 300 feet. A 252 X 98 foot plaza in front of the Supreme Court building is used as its buffer zone.

Justice Antonin Scalia was furious in 2000 after six of the nine judges ruled in favor of a buffer zone in Hill v. ColoradoHe furiously announced, “Our longstanding commitment to uninhibited, robust and wide-open debate is miraculously replaced by the power of the state to protect an unheard of right to be let alone on the public streets.” Except, of course, in the case of the plaza that protects him. This time, he objected to a lawyer’s characterization of the people as protesters,” asserting that the petitioners in this case “don’t want to protest . . . they want to talk to women about abortion.”  If this case were only about protesting, he continued, a thirty-five-foot buffer zone “might not be so bad.”

People at clinics without buffers have reported serious problems beyond being pushed out of the way and sprayed by some unknown liquid. In Alabama, volunteer and clinic escort Pamela Watters described both verbal and physical assaults including someone a protester from Virginia who pushed another volunteer, a great-grandmother, into a patient’s moving car.

When protesters blocked a clinic entrance in Chicago, the city passed an ordinance requiring that protesters stay eight feet away from patients if they are within 50 feet of the clinic entrance. Protesters are still harassing patients by wearing orange vests like the clinic escorts, giving baby booties in gift bags to patients, and videotaping patients.

At EMW Women’s Surgical Center of Louisville, one of the only two clinics in state, an average of 40 protesters line the sidewalks every day, a number that can swell to 100 if students from local bible colleges are bused in. They use megaphones, display signs with aborted fetuses pictures, and block open car doors so that patients can’t get out of their vehicles. The police don’t always show up if someone asks for their help. That’s what people call “freedom of speech” in reference to a lawful act of going into a women’s clinic. That’s what the highest justices in the land are discussing in the safety of their court.

The day before the Supreme Court heard the case about buffer zones, they declined to hear a case about the Arizona law preventing abortions after 18 weeks. The law stated 20 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period, but the people who voted in favor of the law are apparently science knowledge-challenged. Conception comes about two weeks after menstruation. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled the law unconstitutional and permanently blocked its enforcement. SCOTUS’s refusal to hear an appeal means that the law has been struck down.

Two other defenses of pro-choice came this year when the justices refused to hear Oklahoma’s defense of two anti-choice measures. One would have prohibited the use of one drug that is used to induce an abortion in the first weeks of a pregnancy, and a second would have required costly ultrasound tests for women seeking an abortion.

While SCOTUS works on clinic buffer zones, the House Judiciary Committee hearing spent last week trying to figure out how to keep middle-class consumers from getting health care subsidies if their plans include abortion coverage in H.R. 7.

H.R. 7 men

The committee takes pride in H.R. 7 as a “pro-jobs” bill. Chair Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said:

“[It is] very, very true that having a growing population and having new children brought into the world is not harmful to job creation. It very much promotes job creation for all the care and services and so on that need to be provided by a lot of people to raise children.”

This isn’t the only crazy conservative reason to block all abortions. Rick Santorum said during his presidential run that having children makes the Social Security fund solvent. Former GOP-supporter Sen. Zell Miller (D-GA) said in 2007 that he wants women to have babies to “fill our Army.”

The next time that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) claims that the House is enacting “jobs bills,” check to see exactly what these are. As for the buffer zones, Eileen Shim got it right: “If abortion clinic protesters weren’t such bullies, we wouldn’t need buffer zones.”

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