Posts Tagged ‘Senate’

The Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 3220) is a commonsense bill that would deter wage discrimination by closing loopholes in current law. The bill takes meaningful steps to create incentives for employers to follow the law, empower women to negotiate for equal pay, and strengthen federal outreach and enforcement efforts. It would also bar retaliation against employees who disclose their own wages. Without this bill, employers can penalize and even fire workers for talking about their salaries. This egregious practice leaves employees in the dark and prevents them from finding out about pay discrimination in the workplace.

AAUW and fair-pay advocate Lilly Ledbetter, the author of Grace and Grit: My Fight for Equal Pay and Fairness at Goodyear and Beyond, have been working hard to get the word out on Capitol Hill. Ledbetter even gave AAUW and Lisa Maatz, our director of public policy and government relations, a shout-out during her appearance on the Rachel Maddow Show on Monday night.

Watch the clip below, read about last week’s House vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, and stay tuned to find out more about how the Senate vote turns out.

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Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

—    Section One of the Equal Rights Amendment

On this day in 1972, Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment. In the 40 years since, it has been ratified by 35 states — it needs 38 to be added to the Constitution. Given that the ERA was first introduced in 1923, the process has been long, strenuous, and oftentimes disheartening. Undoubtedly, we should celebrate this 40th anniversary, but as we celebrate, we must also reflect on the work still left to be done.

Every time I study the ERA, I am always shocked both at how long it took to get through Congress and at how stagnant it has been since. What needs to be done to persuade the skeptics? What can we do to ensure that women in the United States will be permanently guaranteed equality? This last question deeply resonates with me. The past few months have brought one attack after another on women and women’s health — so many, in fact, that the term “war on women” is becoming commonplace. With such a battle being waged against women’s basic human rights, the passage and adoption of the ERA seems not only fundamental but urgent.

I am not so naive that I believe that the ratification of the ERA would completely eliminate gender-based discrimination, and it is indisputable that women have more rights now than when Congress passed the ERA 40 years ago. But how are we to successfully dismantle the discriminatory practices in our country if there is no mandate in our Constitution that says that we must? The ERA would build a solid foundation on which to continue — and to grow — the work of ending gender-based discrimination.

Only three more states must ratify the ERA to make it the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — only three more states are needed to make history for women.

Today, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced a resolution in the Senate to extend the timeframe for ratification and to help move forward the three-state strategy, which would pick up where the previous ratification by 35 states left off. He joins Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), who introduced a similar proposal in the House, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who have introduced resolutions to pass the ERA all over again. It is my hope that women focus their surge of advocacy in response to the war on women to ensure that we finally see the ERA ratified by 38 states and added to our Constitution.

This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Intern Jordan Jones.

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When I was in seventh grade, I spent my time thinking about school work, my friends, and my after-school activities. I did not give much consideration to my body and how it was developing. This all changed on the day that 40 of my female classmates and I will never forget.

Two boys (who were close friends with the group) thought it would be funny to make a list of all the girls and rate them based on various attributes. “The List,” as we referred to it, had categories such as chest, body type, personality, and the dreaded comments section. Some examples of their thought-provoking observations were “mosquito-bite chest” and “makes wide right turns.” The List was intended to be a joke and never to leave the boys’ homes, yet somehow it surfaced, and copies were distributed throughout my middle school.

As I reflect on this “typical” middle school situation (AAUW’s recent report, Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School, says that 48 percent of the surveyed students experienced some form of sexual harassment in the last school year), a number of thoughts come to mind. First, this experience was mortifying for all of the girls who were targeted. For the first time, we were made aware of our physical characteristics, while they were displayed for everyone to read. Already vulnerable, we developed insecurities that stayed with all of us. I mentioned to my friend that I was writing about The List, and her response was “I am still haunted by the memory.” These boys’ words remain 15 years later.

Fortunately, there is legislation in Congress to help schools put an end to the bullying and harassment that still goes on. The Safe Schools Improvement Act (S. 506/H.R. 1648), a bipartisan bill, would ensure that states, districts, and schools have policies in place prohibiting bullying and harassment and that schools implement education programs designed to teach students about the issues around and consequences of bullying and harassment. The hope is to prevent situations like The List in the future. We have to teach students that their words are damaging, that victims have available resources in counselors and school authorities, and that schools must do what they can to prevent and respond to bullying and harassment. The Safe Schools Improvement Act is vital for students. Last week, through AAUW’s Action Network, more than 600 members sent a letter to Congress expressing their support.

Although both boys and girls experience sexual harassment, AAUW’s report found that it is much more common for girls. The AAUW Action Fund’s nonpartisan, nationwide My Vote campaign — a voter education and turnout effort — will certainly keep the pressure on candidates to stand up and prevent sexual harassment. You can learn more about the effort on AAUW’s blog and by visiting www.aauwaction.org.

This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Intern Caroline Talev.

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Dear super committee,

How are you? I ask because, although you’ve been tasked with finding a way to trim the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next decade, you haven’t been that public about what you’ve been up to. So I thought I’d check in and offer some ideas.

Super committee, we need to talk. There are all these crazy rumors flying around town that you’re 1) doomed to failure and won’t achieve anything at all, 2) going to exceed expectations and cut up to $4 trillion from the federal deficit, or 3) only reducing the deficit by about $600 billion and leaving the rest for the next Congress to deal with. So it’s been a little hard to figure out what your final proposal, due to Congress the day before Thanksgiving, will look like. Allow me to make some suggestions.

First, any package must be balanced. None of this nonsense about cutting programs for the hungry, young, and weak — like food stamps or Head Start — while not even looking to bring in additional revenues from the most powerful or wealthiest. No sirree. Any package you come up with must include additional revenues, not additional hardships.

Second, your proposal should create capacity, not destroy it. While some people argue that Pell Grants for college students or job training for those whose industries have moved overseas is expensive, think about how much human potential we would lose if we didn’t provide these opportunities. Your proposal should recognize that certain dollars spent today can create hundreds of dollars for our economy in the future. You shouldn’t risk our country’s capacity for greatness by cutting this funding.

Finally, the proposal should honor the commitments we’ve made to one another. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are promises that we’ve made as a society — no one will starve or die because they’re too poor or old. It’s that simple, and your proposal needs to recognize that and leave these programs alone.

I hope these suggestions help. These are tough budgetary times, and you’re facing difficult decisions. But this argument isn’t just about numbers; it’s about who we are and who we want to be as a country. I, for one, urge you to create a sensible, balanced proposal that allows our economy to grow and lets Americans live in dignity and prosperity.



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In the few months I’ve been participating in the AAUW Action Fund Lobby Corps, we’ve twice lobbied members of Congress to support bills that heighten the solvency of the Social Security system and ensure that it is not lumped into the deficit debate. Both times, congressional staff members have commented on my age and asked why I, as a young woman, care about Social Security.

I care because Social Security is the program through which Americans support each other across generational divides. I care because my grandmother relies on Social Security and because my dad isn’t far from retirement age. I care because I pay into the system every two weeks, and if certain members of Congress get their way, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will be targeted as part of the deficit reduction plan, reducing benefits for millions of Americans.

On Wednesday, several Democratic representatives held a press conference to announce their opposition to reducing Social Security as part of deficit reduction. Reps. John Conyers (D-MI), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), John Olver (D-MA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Janice Hahn (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), and Hansen Clarke (D-MI) gathered on the Capitol lawn to express their joint message: Hands off Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid!

The members asserted that deficit reduction must be addressed by putting Americans back to work, not by disproportionately burdening seniors, women, and the middle class.

The current Social Security system is more than just a retirement program; across its lifespan, it has been one of the most successful anti-poverty programs in our nation’s history, providing benefits to many children, disabled workers, surviving spouses, and retirees.

As a member of a generation whose Social Security future is already not so secure, I think that protecting the Social Security system for seniors, women, children, and the multitude of others who benefit from it is the best way to ensure that Americans continue caring for each other across the generations.

This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Intern Katie Donlevie.

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Dear Professor Hill,

When I told friends about my weekend trip to New York to attend the conference in your honor — Sex, Power, and Speaking Truth: Anita Hill 20 Years Later — many of them did not know who you were. And who can blame them? Many of us were just 3 years old, or perhaps not even alive, when your name came into America’s living rooms in 1991, and my high school history class wasn’t exactly focused on women’s issues.

So I was curious. What happens when my friends or others go looking to find out who you are and how you changed the course of history?

Anita Hill testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill. A portion of the photo gallery is in the background.

Well, they’ll go to Google, and they will enter in your name or something about the confirmation hearings. Then they’ll click on the first link that comes up — Wikipedia — and get a tiny education in the story of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings

Unfortunately, neither the entry on you nor the one on the actual confirmation hearings does the story the justice it deserves.

Wikipedia doesn’t mention that the Senate Judiciary Committee tried to move ahead with the confirmation vote without considering known charges of sexual harassment, and it forgets about the seven gutsy congresswomen who marched to the Senate Democrats’ caucus meeting to demand that you be allowed to testify, not taking no for an answer.

Both entries fail to document how the all-white, all-male Senate committee treated you with outrageous disrespect and judgment. Watching your testimony is both sickening and amazing. Some of the questions were so frustrating, so Kafkaesque. And yet you responded with grace, dignity, and patience, qualities that surely helped you become a pioneer for black women in law.

None of this comes through in the story Wikipedia tells. Nor does the story indicate the painful tears in the black community as it struggled with race, gender, and politics in choosing whom to support in this ugly fight. Nor does it indicate how Thomas has in many ways betrayed his civil rights background and ruled against free speech, tolerance, rules for good business practice, the list goes on.

In Wikipedia’s defense, it gets a couple things right.

It pays tribute to your career, highlighting that the confirmation hearings were a historical event, but just that. This is not your story. It does not define you, and it has not stopped you. You faced fear and hate with bravery and dignity, and in the aftermath, you soared to great heights.

Wikipedia also acknowledges that your testimony helped launch “modern-day public awareness of the issue of sexual harassment in the United States.” Your words, broadcast over evening television, broke through the silence around sexual harassment. You, Professor Hill, started a song that has been growing louder ever since.

For this and more, I want to thank you.

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Twenty years ago this week, Professor Anita Hill testified about sexual harassment before the Senate Judiciary Committee during the confirmation hearings for then-Supreme Court justice nominee Clarence Thomas. Hill used to work for Thomas and felt it was her duty to share her experiences of sexual harassment in her workplace. In the end, Thomas was still appointed as a justice, and he continues to be one today.

Two decades later, it is clear that the hearings were a pivotal moment in our nation’s history.

Working women across the nation identified with what Hill said, and her testimony opened up the floodgates. In record numbers, women shared their sexual harassment stories, and in just a few years, the number of sexual harassment complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission doubled.

Hill’s testimony ultimately changed how we think about sexual harassment. Before, it was seen as a personal problem and something women should handle with a sense of humor or thick skin. Hill’s testimony helped people understand that sexual harassment is discrimination and a tactic that both men and women use to oust others from a workplace.

The disbelieving, hostile way the all-male Senate Judiciary Committee treated Hill and the subsequent confirmation of Thomas to the Supreme Court led to several women being elected to the Senate the following election year in what was dubbed the “Year of the Woman.”

Tomorrow, Saturday, October 15, Hunter College in New York City is hosting a daylong summit on workplace sexual harassment, and Hill is the keynote speaker. Panelists will host sessions such as What Happened, What Does Anita Hill Mean to You, and What Have We Learned in 20 Years and What Comes Next?

AAUW is one of the many conference co-sponsors, and we will host one of the lunchtime discussions. Ours will focus on the sexual harassment of teenagers in schools and on the streets.

For the majority of you who cannot be there, you can watch via live streaming on the conference website. If you’re on Twitter, follow @anitahill20 and view live updates by following the hashtag #AnitaHill. AAUW will cover the event on our blog early next week.

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In a video released on the 17th anniversary of the Violence against Women Act, Vice President Joe Biden calls for renewed efforts to prevent dating violence and sexual assault against teens and college students. “Speak up and act and make it clear that violence against women will not be tolerated at your school, on your campus, at any time, for any reason,” says Biden.

While VAWA has had a meaningful impact on domestic violence, dating violence and sexual assault have increased among women ages 16–24 since the law was passed. The Obama administration’s new 1 is 2 Many campaign calls on teens and students to participate in generating ideas to make their campuses safer through a new Twitter handle devoted to the issue, and the national Apps against Abuse competition challenges people to develop software that can report and help prevent sexual assault in real time.

In an effort to end violence on college campuses, 800 AAUW members gathered on the Hill this June to lobby their members of Congress to support the Campus SaVE Act. This bill will help put an end to sexual assault and violence on campuses by requiring schools to spell out their policies, conduct prevention activities, and ensure necessary assistance for victims. If passed, the Campus SaVE Act will be a vital step toward ending the sort of violence that prevents women from attaining their educational dreams.

We challenge you to help end dating violence and sexual assault in your community and across the United States! Get involved in your community using AAUW’s Campus Sexual Assault Program in a Box and urge your senators to co-sponsor the Campus SaVE Act! You have the power to help stop violence against women.

This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Intern Katie Donlevie.

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Have you ever looked at the plans and proposals put forth by your elected officials and said, “I could do better”? (If you’re an AAUW member, I bet you have!) Well, it seems Congress and the White House might agree with you, and they’re trying to make it easier for you to contribute to overcoming America’s challenges.

Welcome to our crowdsourced government, where every single American can help govern from the comfort of her couch. You may have heard about crowdsourcing though social media — it means asking a large group of people to participate in something online. Whether it’s the Republicans’ YouCut tool, where you can vote on which government programs to slash, or the Obama administration’s new We the People petition website, in which White House officials will review and respond to popular ideas and proposals, government wants your input. Sure, you’re one voice of many, but that’s the advantage of crowdsourcing — if an idea can surface above the background noise of the Internet, it may have merit.

Now, government has been soliciting public input for a long time. Sometimes overshadowed by its big sister, free speech, the right to petition government is among the five freedoms enshrined in the First Amendment. We petition government and seek to influence elected officials when we send AAUW Action Network messages or when we rally outside the Supreme Court; we provide feedback to Congress in opinion polls and on Election Day.

But the beauty of We the People, YouCut, or the new commenting tool for the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (which we affectionately refer to as the debt “super committee”) is that government is now welcoming the public’s proactive participation in creating policy. If voting is reactive, in that we punish or reward officials for their beliefs and voting behavior, these tools allow us to take the initiative. You could suggest, for example, that the debt super committee stay the heck away from Social Security because it’s an off-budget item; it did not contribute to the deficit; and it is critical to the economic security of elderly women, more than 50 percent of whom would live in poverty without it. Oh, and it pays more benefits to children than any other federal program, including welfare.

But that’s just an example.

The point is that it’s getting easier and easier to add your two cents. And if you’re like me and think you’ve a got a few ideas that would change this country for the better, then assert your right to petition — jump in to the crowd.

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Next Thursday, September 8, President Barack Obama will give what’s being touted as a major speech that will pressure the so-called debtsuper committee” to focus on job creation and tackling the nation’s high unemployment rate, which stood at 9.1 percent in July 2011. While the speech is of interest to all Americans, it’s particularly important to women. Job creation and economic opportunity are critical issues for women, many of whom continue to struggle with economic insecurity and wage discrimination.

The last few years have been particularly unkind to American women. Between June 2009 and May 2011, women lost 218,000 jobs and saw their average unemployment rate increase 0.2 percent. By contrast, men gained 768,000 jobs and lowered their unemployment rate by 1.1 percent. According to the Pew Research Center, “Employment trends during the recovery have favored men over women in all but one of the 16 major sectors of the economy.” Even in sectors traditionally associated with women, such as education and health services, men gained jobs at a faster rate than women.

Yet when women have found jobs, wage discrimination remains problematic. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women who work full time earn about 77 cents on average for every dollar men earn. Because of the wage gap, since 1960 the real median earnings of women have fallen short by more than half a million dollars compared to men.

This gap has real consequences. With 71.4 million women in the workforce as of July 2011, wage discrimination hurts the majority of American families. Women are increasingly the primary breadwinners in their households, so the wage gap undermines families’ economic security. Additionally, wage discrimination lowers total lifetime earnings, thereby reducing women’s benefits from Social Security and pension plans and inhibiting their ability to save not only for retirement but also for other lifetime goals such as buying a home and paying for a college education. Researchers have calculated that the average 25-year-old woman will earn $523,000 less than her male counterpart over the next 40 years.

Women deserve not only equal employment opportunities but also equal pay for that employment. Women play a critical role in our nation’s economy, and we must not leave them behind as we recover from the recession.

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