A heartfelt thanks to the honoree of this year’s National Partnership annual luncheon, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who inspired us with her comments on the future of health reform – and the many women in top positions who are working to implement it.
“Taken together, these reforms have the potential to give all American women more control over their health care,” Secretary Sebelius said in her keynote speech. “But to achieve this potential, we need to make sure we get these reforms right. That’s why I appreciate the work you’re doing through the Campaign for Better Care to organize advocates to push for a more effective health care system.”
We were also touched by a powerful story from artist and patient advocate Regina Holliday, who courageously shared her experiences with the health care system during the final months of her husband’s life.
We extend our deep appreciation to the event’s emcee, WRC-TV anchor Eun Yang, as well as National Partnership Board Chair Ellen Malcolm, and approximately 1,000 supporters who helped make this year’s annual luncheon an incredible success.
Check out the luncheon highlights and watch the video >>
Do you worry about losing your job when you get sick? If you’re like 40 million other workers in this country, perhaps you should!
In a new survey conducted by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center, commissioned by the Public Welfare Foundation, one in six people report that they have lost a job for taking time off from work to care for a sick child or family member, or to cope with their own illness.
But it doesn’t stop there. The survey findings also suggest that the lack of paid sick days is harming public health, and straining the nation’s health care system. It makes perfect sense: Without paid sick days, more people to go to work sick, multiplying their chance of infecting others. People without paid sick days can’t take time off from work to go to the doctor – and according to the new survey, they are then twice as likely as people with paid sick days to use an emergency room.
Government data show that nearly 40 percent of workers in this country do not have paid sick days. Even more don’t have paid time off to care for a sick child or family member. In light of the public health risk and economic insecurity caused by the lack of paid sick days, it isn’t surprising that across all demographic groups, the public says paid sick days are a basic worker’s right. The public favors a law that guarantees paid sick days for all workers. In fact, a whopping 86% of respondents would back a plan providing workers up to seven paid sick days per year.
San Francisco and Washington, D.C. have paid sick day laws in place, and voters in Milwaukee passed a paid sick days measure. There is strong support in the New York City Council for the citywide paid sick days law now under consideration. More than 20 states saw the introduction of paid sick days bills in the 2009-2010 legislative sessions, and as many as 24 states and localities are expected to see the same next year. Congress is considering the Healthy Families Act, which would allow workers at businesses with 15 or more employees to earn up to seven paid sick days annually. By all appearances, one would think the tide is turning – but we aren’t nearly there yet.
The survey relays a clear message from the public: No one should have to make the impossible choice between their job and their own health or the health of their loved ones. Now more than ever, workers need paid sick days.
Portia Wu, Vice President
On Sunday, people around the country will be finding a way to show our fathers what an important role they play in our lives. So it’s ironic that this week Congress missed a chance to show the American people that it understands that dads—and moms, too—deserve policies to help them meet work and family needs. This opportunity came when the Work-Life Balance Award Act was considered under the suspension of the rules (which requires at least a two-thirds vote for passage). This bill was supported by advocacy groups as well as business groups. Unfortunately, although some sensible Republicans crossed the aisle to support the legislation, the Republican Study Committee encouraged its members to vote “no” and the legislation failed in a 249 to 163 vote.
The need for policies that help workers meet their obligations on the job and at home is very much on the minds of all of us these days. We’re glad to see that this conversation is happening at the very highest levels: this past Spring, some of our nation’s highest profile parents, the President and First Lady Michelle Obama, called together advocates, businesses and experts to talk about the need for flexible workplace policies. The Work-Life Balance Award Act, championed by Rep. Lynn Woolsey and Rep. George Miller, would have been another important step in furthering the conversation. The bill would simply have allowed public recognition for model employers with good family-friendly policies. Such recognition, we hoped, would spur other companies to follow their example.
The failure of this straightforward bill may be in part the result of partisan posturing, but it’s unfortunate that many of our nation’s lawmakers are making light of the colossal shifts in America’s workplaces and the vital role work-family policies play in Americans’ economic well-being. In a time when most families have two parents at work, and where many families are living paycheck to paycheck, policies like paid sick days and paid family leave, which allow workers to meet their family responsibilities without risking jobs or pay, are more important than ever. This modest bill wouldn’t have delivered those things, but it would have at least recognized employers who understand these needs and have already adopted policies to help their workers meet these challenges.
As work-and-family advocates, we supported the Work-Life Balance Award Act and the chance it provided to demonstrate the importance of strong workplace policies. It is too bad that Congress rejected this opportunity. Going forward, we hope that every Member of Congress will put working families before partisan politics. It is past time for workplace laws to honor workers’ commitments, both at home and at work.
Sharyn Tejani, Senior Policy Counsel
In 1963, the Equal Pay Act, which prohibits employers from paying women less than men for the same work, became law. A lot has changed in the workplace since then. But the Equal Pay Act is still pretty much the same as it was 47 years ago. That is a big part of the reason women working full time are still only paid 77 cents to a man’s dollar—and women of color are paid even less. Because the Equal Pay Act hasn’t kept up with new civil rights laws or been updated to reflect new workplace realities or reverse harmful court rulings, the Act is hardly ever enforced. That means employers can easily get away with paying different wages to women and men who are doing the same job. In fact, the law is so weak that employers often find it cheaper to discriminate than to pay fair wages.
Americans are fed up with this status quo. Last month, in a nationwide poll of registered voters, 84% said they supported “a new law that would provide women more tools to get fair pay in the workplace.” Participants were told that the “law will also make it harder for employers to justify paying different wages for the same work and ensure that businesses that break the law compensate women fairly.” 72% of respondents said they strongly supported such a law. For more information on the polling results, click here:
That new law is the Paycheck Fairness Act, and we need it because it would make it harder for employers to hide pay discrimination, help train women and girls about salary negotiation, support government collection of critical wage data, and reward employers that have good pay practices. Particularly in these tough economic times, Congress needs to help working families by passing laws that help women get the equal pay they earn.
The House already passed the Paycheck Fairness Act with bipartisan support. It has 40 co-sponsors in the Senate. Let your Senator know it is time to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act now!
Judith L. Lichtman, Senior Advisor
Earlier this month, I was invited by the White House to watch President Obama nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan to serve on the Supreme Court. The ceremony was even more moving than I expected, and that took me a little by surprise. I had tears in my eyes for much of that morning ceremony in the East Room. If Kagan is confirmed, women will comprise one-third of the Supreme Court. That’s a fraction that does not yet represent our proportion of the population — but it’s a stake that was once unimaginable for me and most of my peers.
Read the full post on WomensEnews.org »