A New Coalition Of State Legislators Promoting Economic Security For Women And Working Families
Across the country, we need policies that promote economic security for working families. Today’s families have changed and our workplace policies should reflect that reality. Strong economic security policies should be aimed at building strong, successful families with flexible and equal and equal treatment in the workplace.
To address the needs of our workforce today, the Center for American Progress (CAP) is launching the Women’s Opportunity Network (WON), a new network of state legislators fighting to give women and working families a fair shot to get ahead. Through WON, legislators will have a space to interact with their colleagues across the nation to share best practices and common obstacles while focusing on key issues such as ensuring equal pay, expanding paid family leave, access to paid sick leave, and the ability to secure affordable, high-quality childcare.
Today, nearly 30 legislators from 18 states gathered at CAP to launch WON. The current gridlock in Washington means that, more often than not, these policy battles are being won or lost on the state level. In absence of a functioning Congress, we can still make progress towards these issues that impact families using the strength of state networks. WON provides critical infrastructure for progressives, since these key problems continue to plague our society. Here are some reasons we need WON:
- Too many working parents go to work sick or leave their sick children at home alone because they worry about losing their jobs. About 40 percent of the nation’s private-sector workers do not have access to paid sick days. This makes workers often have to choose between losing pay and not being able to care for themselves or a loved one.
- Only a very small share of workers have access to paid family and medical leave that allows them to be with their newborn children, to care for parent or spouse, or to recover from their own illness. The U.S. is the only developed country that does not guarantee access to paid maternity leave and is one of only three developed countries that do not offer broader family and medical leave insurance. Only 12 percent of workers in the U.S. have access to paid family leave through their employers.
- Women continue to earn significantly less than men, hurting working families’ economic security. Women are the primary, sole, or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of U.S. families but earn 79 cents for each dollar that men earn. Black and Latina women experience the sharpest pay disparities, earning 60 cents and 55 cents respectively for every dollar white men earn.
- Child care is necessary to working families’ economic security, but it is too costly for working families. With 65 percent of children under 6 having all available parents in the workforce, high-quality, affordable childcare is a necessity. Child care is increasingly out of reach for working families: for a typical family with an infant and a preschooler in a child care center, average child care costs exceed median rent in every state.
- Women need comprehensive reproductive health services—including access to abortion care—in order to thrive as breadwinners, caregivers, and employees. In 2013, 20.1 million U.S. women were in need of publicly supported family planning services and supplies. Federal Title X funding—which covers contraception, pregnancy testing, and cancer screenings—has not kept up with inflation and often faces the threat of cuts, meaning states must step in and ensure that women have access to quality family planning resources.
BOTTOM LINE: Today’s families look much different than they once did and our workplace policies need to be updated to reflect that reality. CAP’s new WON initiative will help state legislators advocate for policies such as ensuring equal pay, expanding paid family leave, access to paid sick leave, and the ability to secure affordable, high-quality childcare so all women and working families can get ahead.
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