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?” 

December 8, 2012

NOW Comes to Town, Part 3

The first two blogs about NOW issues discussed women’s reproductive rights, violence against women, and racism. Following are additional issues regarding the current inequality of women.

Lesbian Rights: Currently the GOP is spending our taxpayer money, by now over $1.5 million, to continue the ban on marriage equality. Inability to be married discriminates against same-sex couples in more than 1000 federal laws, many of them costing a great deal of money. Although lesbians and gays are now permitted to openly serve in the military, their partners lack the same rights as married partners, refusing them housing and other benefits. People complain about the possibility of paying taxes on health benefits from their employers, but gays and lesbians are already forced to do this if their employers insure their partners.

During its current term, the U.S. Supreme Court will determine whether LGBT people will continue to endure these inequities.

Economic Justice: During the fall campaign, conservatives kept claiming that women cared far less about reproductive rights than they did in the economy. They refused to recognize that reproductive rights influence women’s economic status: if women cannot plan their families, they have less chance to meet their economic needs. In addition to reproductive rights, NOW addresses a wide range of women’s economic justice issues including welfare reform, livable wages, job discrimination, pay equity, housing, social security, and pension reform.

The GOP denies the fact that women are paid over 20 percent less than men for the same types of jobs. Conservatives also want to reduce Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid payments which many women desperate need because of their lower pay. Over a lifetime, women will receive almost $500,000 on average less than men during a 40-year career, which then figures into less savings and Social Security benefits. More than twice as many women seniors live in poverty than male seniors.

The poverty rate for women is almost 40 percent higher than for men; 14.5 percent of all women lived in poverty in 2010. More than 17 million women live in poverty compared to 12.6 million men. A greater number of Hispanic women, 25 percent, live in poverty, and 25.6 percent of black women are at or below the poverty level. More than 40 percent of single mothers now live in poverty. The GOP solution is marriage, but conservatives ignore problems of domestic abuse and the poverty of men who would become their husbands. 

When women banded together to fight these economic inequities, the Supreme Court struck them down. Twelve years ago, a lawsuit, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, exposed the company’s discrimination against women in pay and promotions, but SCOTUS said that women could not file a class-action suit because the group was too large to share “common claims.”

After the court reinforced the practice of discrimination, Congress introduced the Equal Employment Opportunity Restoration Act (EEORA). The majority of GOP representatives resulting from conservative state legislators’ gerrymandering will surely keep this act from passing the House. The Senate has already failed to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act because the GOP filibustered it, requiring 60 votes to move forward, eight votes more than it had—a majority of the Senate.

The most recent accomplishment for women’s economy was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first bill that President Obama signed into law. The law overturned SCOTUS’s ruling that complaints have to filed within the first six months after receiving a pay check whether the employee knows if there is any discrimination. Fortunately, Mitt Romney was not elected president because he would never say whether he would try to overturn the Ledbetter Act.

Most of the public is aware that women are paid less than men. Not as many people know that women are charged more than men for goods and services. And there’s no federal law against this discrimination. People would never accept a difference in charges on the basis of race, but they seem to accept that one gender has to pay more than another for the same thing.

 Insurance companies charge women $1 billion more than men for the same coverage, according to a recent report from the National Women’s Law Center. The reason isn’t maternity care; almost one-third of plans without this provision have higher charges for women of at least 30 percent or more. This inequity will stop as part of Obamacare at the beginning of 2014 unless conservatives overturn this law.

Cleaners charge more for “blouses” than men’s “shirts.” Women’s deodorant costs 30 cents more than men’s. Hair cuts are more expensive for women even if they get the same service. Men’s sneakers are taxed at 8.5 percent, while women’s sneakers are taxed at 10 percent.

In 2006, the Consumer Federation of America reported that women were 32 percent more likely than men to get saddled with costly, high-interest subprime loans–even in cases in which their credit ratings and credit histories were better than the men’s. As a result, women have been forced to pay thousands more in interest.

Twenty years ago, Ayres published a landmark study proving that women consistently paid more for cars than men did. Studies since then have shown that women continue to pay more. Black women suffered the most in extra charges when purchasing cars, an average of $400 more than men.

Equal Rights Amendment: Over 90 years ago,   Alice Paul, who was sometimes imprisoned for her activism in the women’s suffrage movement, wrote the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The text was a simple sentence: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Introduced to Congress for the first time in 1923 and every year until it finally passed 40 years ago in 1972, the ERA was given only 7 years to gain ratification by three-fourths of the states. Richard Nixon endorsed the ERA after its passage in 1972, and 30 states ratified the ERA within the first year. The impetus slowed, however, and some states rescinded the ratification leaving the ERA with only 35 of 38 states required for becoming an amendment. Failing this, the ERA continues to be introduced and continues to fail every year since 1972.

Winning this equality continues to be one of NOW’s top priorities. For more NOW issues concerned with equality for all women, go to NOW’s website. And find a NOW chapter near you.

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