End The Equal Pay Day “Celebration” – Pass The Paycheck Fairness Act

April 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Yet another guest post by the wonderful Katherine A. Greenier, Director of the Patricia M. Arnold Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU of Virginia.

April 12 –- Equal Pay Day –- marks the point in 2011 when women will finally have earned as much as men earned in 2010 alone. This year, Senator Barbara Mikulski and Representative Rosa DeLauro are commemorating this day by reintroducing the Paycheck Fairness Act, a much-needed, first-ever update to the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Equal Pay Day, however, is not a celebration.

Some may think that legislation like this is not necessary because wage inequity no longer exists. These opponents of the Paycheck Fairness Act point to statistics showing the progress that women have made in the workforce. Indeed, women have made enormous strides when it comes to employment. According to a recent White House report, women’s labor force participation is at the highest rate ever, and their earnings make up a growing share of household incomes. However, the same report also tells us that this progress has not translated into pay equity.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women who work full time still earn, on average, 77 cents for every dollar men earn. For African American women and Latinas, the numbers are even worse. In fact, this continuing disparity is the reason that “celebrating” Equal Pay Day is still necessary. At the current rate of “progress,” it could take decades before women reach equal pay and achieve the end of Equal Pay Day, if nothing is done.

In this economic climate working families cannot afford to wait. The entire family feels the pain of wage discrimination. This is more profoundly so as more women are working and supporting families than ever before.

So, how big is the financial punch of the wage gap on a pocketbook?

Economist Evelyn Murphy has estimated that chronic wage discrimination will deprive a woman of between $700,000 and $2 million over a career. This figure grows when the loss of pension and social security benefits is included. The effects of wage discrimination follow its victims for a lifetime.

Unfortunately, over time, loopholes and weak remedies have made one of the laws intended to stop this problem, Equal Pay Act of 1963, less effective in combating wage discrimination. The Paycheck Fairness Act would provide much needed updates to the 48-year-old Equal Pay Act and tackle the most stubborn barriers to fair pay, while balancing the needs of both employees and employers.

The bill requires that employers demonstrate that wage differences between men and women holding the same position and doing the same work stem from criteria unrelated to their gender. Of course, factors such as merit and seniority, for example, remain acceptable reasons for differences in pay. But the bill clarifies that those pay differences must truly be based on reasons other than the sex of their employees.

Often, company policies prohibit employees from telling colleagues about their salary and can even fire them if they do so. To address this problem, the bill prohibits retaliation against workers who ask about a company’s wage practices or tells another employee their wage. However, to balance business’ need for confidentiality in some instances, employees with access to colleagues’ wage information in the course of their work, such as human resources employees, may still be prohibited from sharing that information.

The Paycheck Fairness bill also strengthens penalties for equal pay violations. The bill’s measured approach levels the playing field by ensuring that women can obtain the same remedies as those subject to discrimination on the basis of race or national origin.

At the same time, this legislation provides new tools for employers. It would require the U.S. Department of Labor to provide technical assistance to employers, recognize the achievements of businesses that address the wage gap, and collect wage-related data to better examine the wage gap. In addition, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission staff would receive additional training to better identify and handle wage disputes.

Pay equity is critical not only to families’ economic security, but also to the nation’s economic recovery. It is time for Congress to make pay equity a priority and to end the necessity to “celebrate” Equal Pay Day each year.

Ask Your Members of Congress to Co-Sponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act Today!

HR3 and the Pre-Voting Activist

February 2, 2011 § 1 Comment

by ADI

(Trigger warning for mentions of sexual assault.)

If you’ve been spending any time on the feminist Internet lately, you’ve likely read about HR3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. Besides codifying the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits almost all federal funding for abortion and vastly limits the access of low-income women to this procedure, the bill would all but remove the current exceptions for rape and incest. Even more problematically, it does so by redefining the only “acceptable” rape as “forcible” rape, something which would effectively bar the majority of rape survivors from receiving help aborting their rapist’s child.

When we talk about the “pro-rape lobby,” this is what we mean. It’s not enough for women who have been raped by a partner, acquaintance, or even stranger in a way that doesn’t comply with this laughably limited definition of rape (while, say, unconscious, drugged, or held down by someone much stronger) to be told that they should have fought back harder, should have watched their drink better, shouldn’t have gone out at all or let their guard down around their closest friends. It’s now going to be enshrined in law. I didn’t think there could be anything more outright evil than denying medical procedures to survivors of sexual assault, but this is almost it: They’re effectively telling people that they do provide funds for survivors, but you weren’t raped.

There are a lot of other reasons why this bill is terrible, many of which have been laid out over at Tiger Beatdown, where Sady is running her wonderful #DearJohn campaign. So what do we do about it now?

Really, in a liberal democracy, there are about four things we can do. The first, obviously, is vote. The nearest election might not be near enough, however, and since this is a blog for young feminists, many of us can’t vote, or at least can’t vote yet. So what do we do? The other three things.

The second is to contact your elected officials. If you’re in the US, find your representative and write them. Call them. Do both. Don’t threaten — we’re better than that. Just explain why the bill hurts women and rape survivors, and why the issue matters to you. Even if you can’t vote yet, let them know that you will be in the closest election.

The third is to make yourself heard. Minority groups like the Tea Party can dominate the national discussion through violent rhetoric and hate — but we can amplify our own voices as well. Follow this guide to joining the #DearJohn campaign — it’s a first step to aggregating the opinions of all the people against HR3. Find your local newspaper and write a letter to the editor — a real, physical letter. If you have access to readers through a blog, post on it. Most importantly, talk to the people you know about the resolution. You don’t have to start an argument or take on a group of people you know are vehemently anti-choice (unless you want to), but make sure that even the pro-choice people you know are aware of the implications of the resolution and why they should be against it.

The last is to consider donating some money to a pro-choice campaign or access fund. Even if we win on this, there are still many women who desperately want abortions — but can’t get the money for them. Try searching for your state’s abortion access fund — many, including DC and New York, have them. Donate to Planned Parenthood or NARAL. Even if you can’t give much, every little bit can help someone in need.

Is Net Neutrality a Feminist Issue?

August 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

by ADI

You may have heard that Google and Verizon have released a “policy statement” about the future of the Internet, urging people to accept the creation of new, “differentiated” services (they suggest health care monitoring, gaming and entertainment services, and advanced educational options) for which they would be charged more than traditional Internet access prices. It’s been generating controversy because it may violate what’s known as “network neutrality,” a commitment to delivering all Internet content for the same price and at the same speed. But what does this mean for feminists?

For me, this is worrying from a purely self-oriented standpoint: I don’t want to end up paying more to access certain parts of the Internet. For lots of people, however, this wouldn’t be an extra inconvenience, but rather a major barrier to accessing parts of the Internet. Right now, this isn’t likely to affect us much, but imagine that the next major Internet breakthrough–the next Wikipedia, the next health care system, the next Twitter—gets put on the “premium” Internet and you have something of an idea where this might be going.

So as a feminist and generally concerned person, I’m worried about what this means to people for whom the Internet is already an unaffordable or unavailable luxury. I definitely have problems with the effects that my technology has on others, from the way Apple products generate waste to the exploitatively-mined rare metals in most electronics. However, cell phones and the Internet have also been great levelers. Cell phones have given people in rural areas the ability to connect with the world, improving their work and their lives (take, for example, this remote control device for farmers). And the Internet has given people a way to get free online courses from schools like MIT, read articles about virtually anything, and make their voices heard on blogs like this.

At the same time, the Internet has also become as much a necessity as the telephone, making things even more difficult for the 34% of Americans who don’t have broadband Internet, or the roughly 25-30% who have no home Internet access at all. Finding a job, registering your children for school, or even keeping in touch with relatives becomes more and more difficult as a steady Internet connection becomes taken for granted.

Many of these people already rely on schools, libraries and other public places to access basic services like email or job boards; are these places going to be able to pay extra to get whatever premium services are offered through Verizon? It might not matter if, as Verizon and Google say, they’re only putting a few high-content video streaming services up on a for-pay basis, but many things, including those job boards and email systems, can be “differentiated” from the normal Internet, and the more barriers get put up between poor communities and job, education, or health care opportunities, the more we’re moving into a system where class mobility is a pleasant fiction.

Calling All Readers: Help me boycott Target in a creative way!

August 3, 2010 § 9 Comments

by ELENA

Nationwide retailer Target (alternative pronunciation: Tar-zhay) has wound up on many people’s consumer shit lists (mine included) due to the recent news that an executive at the Minnesota based chain donated $150,000 to a Republican candidate who is against LGBT rights legislation. But wait–there’s more! In the past, Target’s CEO has given money to such fine, upstanding individuals as Michele Bachmann.

I’m shocked and disappointed by this behavior, because according to the Human Rights Campaign’s Buying For Equality 2010 guide, it has a prefect score, meaning that it has policies supporting LGBT employees in place.

I want to do more than just write the requisite “I’m-not-going-to-buy-your-stuff” letters to Target higher-ups.

So, fellow readers and contributors, I’m looking for creative and effective ways to protest Target’s recent decisions that:

-Will not get me arrested (being asked to leave a store, or being banned from a store is fine.)
-Will not make other Target employees jobs more difficult. So, while Karen’s suggestions would certainly get the point across, that would lead to a lot of pointless work for employees that have little control over the retailer’s policies.
-Will be effective regardless of the number of people participating.
-Will be enjoyable to do.

Shopping should not have to be a constant weighing of the lesser of two evils. And I fail to see how maintaining a healthy business, and promoting basic human rights are mutually exclusive issues. Shame on you, Target.

UPDATE: Target’s CEO has issued an apology for their donation to Rep. Emmer, but many organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign aren’t convinced that Target’s apology is genuine, and want the mass retail to back up their words with actions. I’m still looking for protest ideas, because I’m not buying their apology, either.

UPDATE, PART TWO: I’ve come up with a pretty cool idea for a protest, which involves dressing up as Zombie Michele Bachmanns, and doing the Thriller dance outside a Target store. Are any readers in the Grand Rapids, MI area interested in joining in?

UPDATE, PART THREE (THOUSAND): A flash mob group performed an adapted version of DEVO’s “People are People” in the Target store. Check out their video below.

The Eat, Pray, Love Trailer: An exercise in first-world problems

July 26, 2010 § 6 Comments

by ELENA

I keep seeing the trailer for Eat, Pray, Love on television. I also keep on seeing promotions for an upcoming Vanguard documentary on how overpopulation is causing a lack of sanitation in countries such as India. The Eat, Pray, Love trailer is giddy: Look at this businesswoman! She is burnt out at work! She can’t remember what she ate for lunch! She goes to Italy! India! and Bali! She eats carbs! She talks with her hands! She stops wearing pants! Ohh look– elephants! And cute naked guys! Come see this movie!

The teaser for the documentary is grim. The host throws up, and says that crossing a polluted river is “unbearable.”

As hard to watch as the Vanguard documentary looks, I’d rather watch that than Eat, Pray, Love. I haven’t read the book that the movie is based on, but the trailer turns me off in so many ways. It should be called First World Problems. As unhappy as Julia Roberts’ character seems, she’s pretty damn lucky to be working somewhere where she can just jet off for a year of soul searching in “exotic” locations. And of all of the problems that women face in the workplace (harassment, healthcare benefits, the glass ceiling), not remembering what lunch was is very far down on that list. I’m not saying that feeling burned out, overwhelmed, and not enjoying things like a good meal, or learning to meditate are petty things. But the whole “women goes on a journey to find herself” trope isn’t new. And is rather irritating, in my opinion.

As controversial as Slumdog Millionaire was (especially when it came to provisions made for the young Indian actors featured in the film), it unflinchingly showed the many Indians that live in poverty. According to the trailer, Roberts’ character finds meditation to be so hard, and gets to pet an elephant. Even Italy, a first-world country, has plenty of problems (many of which stem from Silvio Berlusconi being a complete douche canoe), and isn’t all pretty architecture, cute men, wine and OMFG CARBS.

I would find this story much more compelling if this woman’s quest for enlightenment didn’t use “exotic” third-world countries as a quaint backdrop. After all, for the millions who can’t take a year-long trip to find enlightenment, learning to enjoy food, find peace, and fall in love take place in wherever they live. And unfortunately, things like being able to make and enjoy a satisfying meal, or take time to meditate are not possible because they can’t afford/don’t have access to fresh foods and have to work around the clock to pay for basic bills.

Now, if I got to travel to Italy, India, and Bali, I would go, because travel can be an enjoyable experience. But I would also spend time trying to understand what living in those locations was really like, as much as I could. I had to watch the documentary Life and Debt during my freshman year of college, and it changed the way that I looked at tourism to “exotic” locations, because frequently, tourism is the only industry in countries that have been negatively affected by colonization, and crippling loan agreements made with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

People don’t like to think about millions of people unable to have access to toilets. This is why the Vanguard documentary is airing on a small cable channel, and Eat, Pray, Love is a big-budget movie. But I would be more willing to spend money on a movie that did feature travel to countries like India, if there was a greater reason to film there rather than a search for an “exotic” location, with “exotic” (aka not white) people wearing “exotic” clothing.

Denial of Racism Will Not Help Prevent HIV/AIDS

July 21, 2010 § Leave a comment

by KATIE E.

I cringed when I saw the title of this article pop up: “In U.S. cities, AIDS linked more to poverty than race.” My head was immediately filled with visions of the damage that “post-racial” fauxgressives toting this as proof we should all be color-blind and the already minuscule support for reproductive health support groups specifically for racial minorities who may need it (like SisterSong or National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, both of which are fantastic groups that you should consider donating to if you can) dwindling further.

I think everyone who’s ever done real anti-racist work breathed a collective sigh of relief when the article made a note that “…understanding that blacks are disproportionately poor probably does explain why the rates are higher…”

Well, at least they can’t technically pull the “If you really wanted to cure AIDS and luuurved everyone, you would be race-blind” card on us. Still, I find it to be disturbing that this article mentions the connection between being black, living in poverty, and having AIDS a whopping one time, all while containing these gems:

  • “Federal scientists found that race was not a factor — there were no significant differences between blacks, whites or Hispanics.” For those of you who aren’t exactly statistics nerds, this point is made invalid for the disproportionate amount of black, Hispanic, and/or multiracial people who live in poverty compared to white people.
  • “Studies in Tanzania, Kenya and some other African countries actually found that wealthy people were more likely to be infected than the poor.” Because there is apparently something completely wacky about places that GASP-have different sociological trends than the U.S. It isn’t like class differences can mean a totally different thing in Tanzania than they do in the U.S.
  • “He noted there are diseases that are more prevalent in certain racial groups, for genetic reasons. Sickle cell disease, which is most prevalent in blacks, is one example.” Does this anyone else get the impression that Scientist Guy was trying so hard not to acknowledge that black people could be more susceptible to a disease because they’re more likely to be poverty stricken and living in poorer conditions, even though he knows it’s true, because it would wreck his white privileged color-blind street cred?

The article is essentially trying to brush over the simple fact that instead of poverty replacing race as one of the main risk factors for AIDS, poverty and racism are hugely interconnected, and neither system of oppression would exist without the other one. Meaning that, yes, race is a risk factor for AIDS, and AIDS prevention education and outreach need to acknowledge this in a big way, as do programs that work to put an end to poverty. Putting aside racism, classism, and the connection between the two may make those living in privilege more comfortable, but it will do nothing to prevent AIDS among oppressed groups.

NYC High School Students!

February 5, 2010 § Leave a comment

DON’T throw out your student MetroCards that expired today! The NYC Student Union (a badass bunch, if you’re unfamiliar with their work) is organizing a creative protest of the deplorable proposal to cut student MetroCard funding.

This Monday, we are getting new student MetroCards from our schools. This gives us students a chance to use our old metrocards to make a statement to the State and to the MTA.

Use a permanent marker to write your own message to the MTA and the State about them cutting student MetroCards. Whether it is about you, a friend, or a family member, make sure to let them know how losing student MetroCards will impact your life. The NYC Student Union is organizing to collect either in or in front of your school. We are then going to use them as written testimonies at a public hearing this March. This is our chance to give a voice to students like us who are going to be heavily affected by this. However, please keep these messages clean, polite, and serious. This IS NOT meant to be an attack on the MTA. If we can get enough MetroCards, we can give the city a short look at how badly these budget cuts will hurt students and their families, and we can really make a difference.

Join their Facebook Group for more details.

For some inspiration, here’s me with my MetroCard statement…

My school isn't public if I can't get there!

And my little sister, who’s in sixth grade…

Taking MetroCards takes the "public" out of PUBLIC school!

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