Pennsylvania for Women’s Health Agenda Update

Logo for the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health

Logo for the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health

Last September, a bicameral, bipartisan caucus was created in the Pennsylvania General Assembly to review, discuss, and propose legislation to improve the health of women in the Commonwealth by addressing the genuine needs and concerns of women in the state. The Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health was created as a comprehensive plan to address the real-life stories and concerns of women in terms of protecting and expanding women’s reproductive health, improving women’s economic security, and improving safety in their lives.

The First Set of Bills

On December 11, the first five bills were presented and introduced into both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The first set of bills addressed a variety of concerns for women by:

  • Making sure that women receive pregnancy accommodations in their workplace;
  • Creating a 15-foot buffer zone around entrances to health to make sure women seeking reproductive healthcare are able to access it in an orderly and safe manner;
  • Addressing “pay secrecy” and the “factor other than sex” loophole will help to end practices that have enabled employers to pay women less than men for the same work;
  • Expanding access to cervical cancer treatment. This bill is a state Pay Equity bill similar to the federal Paycheck Fairness Act;
  • Eliminating local ordinances that penalize landlords and/or tenants who call the police or emergency services “too frequently;” and
  • Outlawing “revenge porn,” a form of digital intimate-partner violence.

Of the first six set of bills, four have had some movement since my first detailed look at the bills on January 22.

Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act

The House version of the Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act (HB 1892) was formally introduced and referred to the House Labor and Industry Committee where it is still awaiting a hearing. The companion Senate bill (SB 1209) was introduced on March 31 and was referred to the Senate Labor and Industry Committee; it too is awaiting its first hearing.

Pay Equity

The Pay Equity Bill basically hasn’t moved since being introduced. The House version (HB 1890) was introduced and referred to House Labor and Industry Committee on February 19. The Senate version (SB 1209) was introduced and referred to Senate Labor and Industry Committee on March 31; it has not moved since its introduction. However, the House sponsors of HB 1890 have filed a “Resolution to discharge committee from further consideration.” This was filed on April 7. This type of resolution is a rarely used tactic to force debate on a bill when the chair of the committee the bill is assigned to refuses to hold hearings on the bill. We are now waiting to see how the full House will respond to this resolution.

Victims of Crime

The bill protecting victims of crime by eliminating local ordinances that penalize landlords and/or tenants who call the police or emergency services “too frequently” (HB 1796) was introduced on October 22. After its introduction, the House Local Government Committee amended the bill to clarify that bill only applies to cases that involve victims of violence, abuse, or “individuals in an emergency” if the person making the call had a reasonable belief that police intervention or emergency assistance was needed. It unanimously passed House January 14, 2014. It was then referred to Senate Local Government Committee. January 21, 2014. Unfortunately, on March 11 the Senate Local Government Committee was tacked on an ALEC bill as an amendment, turning this good bill into a bad bill. This local ordinance sick-leave preemption bill undermines the safety of domestic violence victims. Under the amendment, local governments would lose their authority to require employers to offer paid or unpaid leave to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Leave from employment is often critical to a victim’s survival in both the short- and long-term. This amendment adds another purpose and intent to HB 1796 that conflicts with its original commitment to protect victims. Advocates, including but not limited to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Women’s Law Project, and Pennsylvania NOW, are urging the legislature to support the version of HB 1796 that was passed by the House of Representatives and to remove the problematic language that was adopted in Senate Local Government Committee. We still support the portion of HB 1796 that would eliminate local nuisance ordinances that penalize a victim for seeking help from emergency services. As a result of our subsequent lobbying to remove this amendment, the Senate has temporarily tabled the bill.

Revenge Porn Prohibition

The “Revenge Porn” bill is the most successful of this first round of bills. The Senate version (SB 1167) was amended in Senate Judiciary Committee January 14, 2014 and sent to the floor for 1st consideration. It unanimously passed the Senate on January 28, 2014 and is now residing in the House Judiciary Committee alongside HB 1901.

The Second Set of Bills

Today, the Women’s Health Agenda Caucus announced the second package of bills to be introduced. They include five bills intended to:

  • Curb political interference in providers’ medical decisions. This bill protects the doctor-patient relationship from directives to practice care in a manner that is not in accordance with standards of care;
  • Identify gaps in health care for women veterans by establishing the Task Force on Women Veterans’ Health Care to study health issues facing women veterans;
  • Fight deep poverty among women with children. This bill Includes a study of family work support programs in the Commonwealth, increases the monthly Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits for women in need; and increases in the TANF Earned Income Disregard;
  • Ensure that widows of state and municipal employees get fair pensions by requiring public employees to obtain spousal consent for benefit payment structures that do not provide at least a 50% survivor benefit; and
  • Protect all employees against sexual harassment by extending the prohibition on sexual harassment to all employers in the state.

Pennsylvania NOW is one of the organizations supporting this full agenda to improve women’s health. I am their lobbyist. At the press conference this morning, I handed out our statement of support. In that statement, I supported each of these bills, saying, “It’s high time that doctors were supported in their right to refuse to provide medically inaccurate information. The increases to TANF cash assistance grant levels and the eligibility asset limit will encourage saving and financial independence. We’re also glad to see sexual harassment protections extended to all workers, and see that female veteran’s health concerns finally get the attention it deserves.”

As advocates for women’s health and equity we are pleased to see the legislature taking a pro-active stance to help improve the lives of women here in Pennsylvania. As Caryn Hunt said in the Pennsylvania NOW press release, ““The women of Pennsylvania need – and now finally have – champions in the legislature who recognize that government must work for all of the people, women included.” We are pleased and “strongly support this Agenda that puts the health and well-being of women and their families first.”

(note: The bill numbers associated with each of these bills will be announced on this blog as soon as I know what they are or will be.)

 

Equal Pay Day 2014: Another Year of Inequity

For the last three years, my local NOW chapter—Ni-Ta-Nee NOW—has organized community education events surrounding Equal Pay Day and paycheck fairness.  We have focused on this issue because of the continuing inequity in women’s wages as compared to the male coworkers.

A frequent question we have is, “What’s Equal Pay Day and why should I care?”  To help answer that question, we have done op-eds and interviews with the local press (See here and here).  We also create a flyer that we update each year.  As President of Pennsylvania NOW, I wrote another blog on this issue in 2011. And last year, I commented on Equal Pay Day 2013 as well as the need for fairness in pay.

Like last year, my local NOW chapter will once again be distributing Equal Pay Day flyers in front of the gates of The Pennsylvania State University over the dinner hour.

Why today? Because Equal Pay Day moves from year to year. For 2014, that day is April 8.

The following is a web-based version of this flyer updated from 2013 to reflect today’s stats and information. The hard-copy version focuses on Pennsylvania. I have kept that information here and added additional commentary and links for information and contacts in other states.

TUESDAY APRIL 8, 2014 is EQUAL PAY DAY

IT’S THE DAY ON WHICH WOMEN’S WAGES CATCH UP WITH MEN’S WAGES FROM THE PREVIOUS YEAR.

The wage gap is the ratio of women’s to men’s median annual earnings for full-time, full-year workers. Based on these earnings, women across the US earned just 77% of what men earned (AAUW, 2014).

Equal Pay Day symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year. In 2014, it took 1 day LESS than in 2013, 9 days LESS than in 2012, and 2 day MORE than in 2011 for a woman to earn as much as a man earned in the entire year. At the current rate of progress, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates that it will be 2057 before women’s wages reach parity and Equal Pay Day will finally be on December 31 rather than somewhere in April of the following year!

 THE WAGE GAP

The Wage Gap - Lack of Equal Pay

The Wage Gap – Lack of Equal Pay

Nationally, Asian American women have the smallest wage gap, earning 87 percent of what the average white man earned in 2012. White women are next, earning approximately 78 percent of white men’s average income. Hawaiian and Asian Pacific women (65 percent), African-American women (64 percent), Native American and Alaskan Native women (60 percent), and Hispanic women (53 percent) have the largest wage gaps as compared to white men (AAUW, 2014). A typical woman earns $431,000 less in pay over 40 years due to this wage gap. (Center for American Progress, 2012)

THE WAGE GAP IN PENNSYLVANIA

The wage gap is even worse, in Pennsylvania. When ranked among the other 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania’s wage gap placed the state at 40out of 51 states. The median annual income for a woman working full-time, year round in Pennsylvania in 2012 was $37,414, compared to men’s $49,330 or 76% of what a man earns. This is a wage gap of 24%.

Of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the nation, only Seattle ranks worse than Pittsburgh (with a gap of 27%); Philadelphia fairs better than the state with a gap of just 20%. A typical woman in PA earns $459,000 less in pay over 40 years due to this wage gap. This gap rises to $722,000 for women who have earned college degrees (Center for American Progress, 2010)

WHAT CAN I DO??

If You are an Employer

If you are an employer, you can get help in examining pay practices by conducting an equal pay self-audit using the guidelines from the US Department of Labor (available at www.pay-equity.org/cando-audit.html).

If You Believe You Are Experiencing Wage-Based Discrimination

Tell your employer if you are being paid less than your male co-workers. Click here for some tips on negotiating for pay equity.

If there’s a union at your place of work, ask for their help.

If discrimination persists: There are three places to file complaints – at the federal level, at the state level, and at the local level.

At the Federal Level

You can file under federal law with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Go to this link and follow the instructions.

At the State Level

You can find your state’s anti-discrimination agency website and contact information in a pdf file created by Legal Momentum starting on page 28. Most of the agencies have a website address that you can copy and paste into your browser. All of the agencies have a phone number that you can call for assistance.

If you live in Pennsylvania, you can file a complaint with the PA Human Relations Commission in Harrisburg. Contact information is available by region.  Just go to their website and look for your county’s name.  The phone number and address for your regional office is listed directly above the names of the counties served by each office.

You should also check to see if your local county, city, or community has an ordinance providing similar protections for wage-based discrimination. You can also file under federal law with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

At the Local Level

There are a few communities throughout the country that have created local ordinances that include the state-based anti-discrimination protections and have also expanded coverage to other areas (such as protections based on sexual orientation, family status, and/or family responsibilities across the life-span). If so, you can more conveniently file a wage-based complaint at the local level. Check with your state’s anti-discrimination agency to see if there is a local ordinance in your community.

In Pennsylvania, there are about 30 communities with such an ordinance. Your regional office of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission can give you this information, along with whom to contact. Check with your state’s anti-discrimination office if you live in another state to determine if your state allows such local ordinances and if such an ordinance exists in your community.

As I just stated, there are about 30 communities in Pennsylvania that have such a local ordinance. One of the most progressive and expansive ordinances is in State College, PA, home of the main campus of The Pennsylvania State University. Their ordinance covers wage-based discrimination based on sex as well as color (race), religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status, marital status, age, mental or physical disability, use of guide or support animals and/or mechanical aids. Four of these categories – sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status and family responsibilities across the lifespan, and marital status—are not covered under state law. State College is the only locality in Pennsylvania (and one of only a handful nationwide) that protects you in employment if you have family responsibilities for adult members of your family whether or not they live in the home with you. If you work within the State College, PA borough, you can file a complaint with the State College Borough under their Employment Anti-Discrimination Ordinance at 814.234.7110814.234.7110 (Side note: I was one of the people instrumental in crafting this ordinance).

If You Want to Support and Advocate for Pay Equity

Both the federal and many state legislatures—including New York and Pennsylvania—are attempting to address the issue of pay equity. I previously summarized what happened in New York with its Women’s Equality Act. The following summarizes the current status of the bills currently moving through Congress and the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

The Federal Paycheck Fairness Act

Ask your Congressional representatives to co-sponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act – HR 377 in the US House of Representatives and both S 84 and S 2199 in the US Senate). The Paycheck Fairness Act updates and strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963. It gives women the tools they need to challenge the wage gap itself. HR 377 was introduced in January 2013 and currently has 207 cosponsors; S 84 was introduced in 2013 and has 55 cosponsors; and S 2199 was introduced on 5 days ago and cosponsors are being sought by Senator Barbara Mikulski.

These bills have several different but related requirements. These include:

  • limiting wage differentials to bona fide work-related factors such as education, training, or experience;
  • prohibiting employer retaliation against employees who discuss their wages with each other or who supports and cooperates with a wage discrimination investigation;
  • authorizing the US Secretary of Labor to provide wage negotiation training grants for women and girls;
  • requiring employer-level data collection wages broken down by sex, race, and national origin; and
  • directing the Secretary of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to provide technical assistance to small businesses so that they can comply with this paycheck fairness law.

You can find out where your representatives stand on the Paycheck Fairness Act by going to http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php. In the search box in the middle of the page, type in “Paycheck Fairness Act” and click search.  On the next page, three bills will show up—SR 84, S 2199, and HR 377.  If you then click on “cosponsors” for each bill, you can determine if your representatives are publicly supporting the bill or not. If they are a sponsor, thank them and then ask them to call for a hearing on vote on the bill. If they are not, ask them to sign on.

Pennsylvania’s Workplace Opportunity Act

This bill is a smaller version of the federal Paycheck Fairness Act. Current Pennsylvania law prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between men and women but it suffers from several deficiencies that continue to allow for sex-based wage discrimination. There are two bills in the Pennsylvania General Assembly – HB 1890 and SB 1212. This two bills help to close these loopholes in current state law. Like the federal bill, the Workplace Opportunity Act requires equal pay for equal work. Employers would have to show that that the wage differential is legal if and only if they can demonstrate that the wage differences:

  •  Are not based upon or derived from a sex-based difference in compensation;
  • Are job-related with respect to the position in question, and
  • Are consistent with business necessity.

And again like the Federal bills, retaliation against employees who discuss their wages with each other or who support and cooperate with a wage discrimination investigation would be prohibited

HB 1890 has 54 cosponsors. It was introduced on January 2, 2014 and sent to the House Labor and Industry Committee. Yesterday the prime sponsors of the House bill – Representatives Erin Molchany and Brian Sims—along with Representative Frankel and several of their colleagues held a press conference on this bill. Here’s three short videos from that media event.

During that conference (but not stated in these videos), they announced  that they have introduced a Resolution Petition to Discharge Committee from Further Consideration of this Bill. This is being done because the ranking committee chair is refusing to hold hearings or hold a vote on this bill. Such a resolution is relatively rare, but is used when legislators believe that there is support for the bill by the members of the legislature despite a committee chair’s refusal to consider the bill.

SB 1212 has 18 cosponsors. It was introduces on February 4, 2014. It is currently sitting in the Senate Labor and Industry. Like the HB 1890, it has had no movement in committee. But like most bills, it has not had a “Resolution to Discharge” petition as of today.

If you live in Pennsylvania, you can contact your PA representative and senator regarding pay equity. So, please take time to contact your legislator.  Here’s where to find your legislator’s contact info. And then tell them to bring both of these bills to the floor for a vote.

Finally…For More Information

Visit http://www.pay-equity.org – the website created by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE). NCPE is a coalition of women’s and civil rights organizations; labor unions; religious, professional, legal, and educational associations, commissions on women, state and local pay equity coalitions and individuals.” They are dedicated to ending wage-based discrimination and achieving pay equity.

Roe v Wade Anniversary: Pro-Active Legislative Agendas

Logo for the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health

Logo for the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health

Today is the 41st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision by the US Supreme Court that says that women have a constitutional right of access to safe abortion services throughout the country.  Since 1973, the right-wing has been pushing back and chipping away at this right. These attacks over the decades have expanded beyond access to abortion and now include all areas of family planning and access to women’s health care. As a result, women’s rights and reproductive justice advocates have been on the defense in an attempt to ensure that all women of reproductive age have full access to all forms of reproductive health.

For a very long time, conservatively controlled legislatures have narrowly focused on restricting women’s access to abortion and reproductive health services. We need a pro-active legislative agenda at the national and state levels to counter this chipping away of our basic rights.  And this is starting to occur.

It’s something we need to focus on, spread the word about, and celebrate on this 41st anniversary of the Roe decision.

Advocates for reproductive justice have had some success in 2013 in their pushback on our back reproductive and healthcare rights.  For example, Texas Senator Wendy Davis, with the assistance of thousands of advocates crowding the capital successfully delayed the passage of an onerous anti-abortion law. And the city of Albuquerque voted down an anti-abortion referendum.

Legislatures too have started to pushback.  And that’s what I’d like to focus on today. Two states so far have decided to take a pro-active stance – New York and Pennsylvania.

New York

Last year, New York State decided to fight back with their “9 Point Plan for Women’s Equality.”  This plan, known as the Women’s Equality Act covers nine broad areas of concern:

  1. Safeguarding Reproductive Health by a) codifying the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, b) ensuring that women can obtain a safe, legal abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy; c) ensuring that physicians won’t be prosecuted for providing this care; and d) retaining the provisions in current law that would prosecute those who harm women;
  2. Ending Pregnancy Discrimination by requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant women in the workplace;
  3. Fighting Human Trafficking by a) creating an “affirmative” defense of being trafficked when a person is charged with prostitution, b) increasing penalties for both sex and labor trafficking, c) creating the ability for victims of trafficking to take civil action against their perpetrator, and d) creating some new criminal offenses in increasing level of severity for some forms of trafficking;
  4. Supporting Domestic Violence Victims by creating a pilot program to allow victims of domestic violence to testify remotely against the alleged perpetrator of violence when requesting a protection from abuse order;
  5. Creating Fair Access to Housing by adding source of income and status as a domestic violence victim to the state’s anti-discrimination law;
  6. Ending Familial Status Discrimination in Employment by adding protections in the state’s anti-discrimination law for employees who have children 18 years or younger residing in the home;
  7. Allowing Payment of Attorney Fees by granting litigants who win a sex discrimination case the ability to receive attorney fees as part of the settlement;
  8. Improving the Sexual Harassment Law by expanding the prohibition on sexual harassment in the workplace to employers with fewer than four employees so that all places of employment are covered; and
  9. Securing Equal Pay by a) closing a loophole in New York’s law that allows employers to justify lower wages for women, b) outlawing wage secrecy policies, and c) increasing damages to prevailing litigants for up to 300% of unpaid wages.

In June 2013, Governor Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act was blocked in the NY State Senate because there were enough right-wing legislators who decided to quash the bill due to a provision in the package bolstering access to abortions. However, advocates have not given up. Governor Cuomo has renewed his commitment to passage of the Women’s Equality Act and advocates in New York State are gearing up for another run for successful passage of this bill.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania legislators recognized this positive effort from our sister state to the north.  In September 2013, a group of Senators and Representatives from both sides of the aisle formed a new legislative caucus to proactively focus on women’s health and equity.  It is called the Women’s Health Caucus. This bi-partisan caucus is co-chaired by Representative Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny and Senators Judy Schwank, D-Berks and Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks.

Rather than the narrow efforts commonly seen in Pennsylvania General Assembly to restrict women’s access to reproductive health programs, the Women’s Health Caucus was formed to redirect legislation towards a woman’s health equity agenda. This broad, proactive agenda covers reproductive health, women’s economic security, and women’s safety.

To celebrate the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, I decided to summarize the bills that have both been introduced and those that are in the works for introduction later this year that focus on some portion of women’s reproductive health and focus on some of the other bills at a later date. This is a work in progress by the Women’s Health Caucus and as such, there may be more bills in process that I don’t yet know about.  The ones discussed here are the health-related bills that have been introduced or have been discussed as potential bills by the Caucus.

Bills in Pennsylvania Legislature to Honestly Address Women’s Needs

As I stated in a blog in September reporting on the first meeting of the Caucus, the Women’s Health Agenda package of bills can be divided into three groups—reproductive health issues, women’s safety, and economic sustainability.  The focus here today is on the bills associated with reproductive health.

On December 11, 2013, the Women’s Health Caucus introduced the first seven bills in the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health.  Four of the seven bills announced that day focus on some aspect of women and children’s health.  Three of these bills have been introduced and are currently in committee in at least one, if not both, Houses.  The fourth bill is still being circulated for co-sponsors in both the House and Senate.

Healthcare-Related Bills that Have Been Introduced and are in Committee

Sanitary conditions for nursing mothers

This legislation requires employers to provide a private, sanitary space for employees who need to express breast milk. It fixes two main loopholes that are present in federal law under the Affordable Care Act. It would apply to all employees, including those that are exempt from federal overtime provisions. It also requires employers to provide a private, sanitary space for mothers to express milk beyond one year after birth. This legislation mirrors the federal provision that exempts small employers from these requirements if these requirements present an undue hardship on the employer. Representative Mary Jo Daley is the prime sponsor of this bill in the House of Representatives.  It was officially introduced H.B. 1895 on December 12, 2013 with 22 co-sponsors and is awaiting first review in the House Labor and Industry Committee.  There is not a companion Senate bill yet.

Representative Daley describes this workplace need for nursing mothers:

“Study after study makes it abundantly clear – both mothers and children benefit from breast milk. For most babies, especially premature babies, breast milk is easier to digest than formula and helps fight against disease. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the cells, hormones, and antibodies in breast milk help protect babies from illness. For mothers, breastfeeding is linked to a lower risk of health problems such as diabetes, breast and ovarian cancers, and postpartum depression. Moreover, breastfeeding mothers miss fewer days from work because their infants are sick less often.

Currently, approximately two dozen states have laws on the books relating to expressing milk in the workplace. Sadly, Pennsylvania does not. The only applicable law on breastfeeding that applies to employers in the Commonwealth is the Affordable Care Act’s amendment to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. This federal law requires employers to provide a private, sanitary space for non-exempt employees to express milk for up to one year after the birth of a child. However, exempt employees include those that are on salary (exempt from federal overtime provisions), often in managerial positions.”

Ensuring access to health care facilities:

This legislation creates a 15-foot buffer zone around health care facilities where picketing, patrolling or demonstrating that blocks patients’ access to the facilities would be banned. H.B. 1891, sponsored by Representative Matt Bradford, D-Montgomery, was introduced into the House with 23 co-sponsors on December 12, 2013 and is currently awaiting review in the House Health Committee.  S.B. 1208, sponsored by Senator Larry Farnese, D-Philadelphia, was introduced into the Senate with 8 co-sponsors on January 16, 2014 and is currently awaiting review in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.

Representative Bradford describes his bill this way:

“Safe and unfettered access to health care facilities should be the right of all Pennsylvania women seeking medical counseling and treatment.  Accordingly, I plan to introduce a bill prohibiting a person from interfering with a person’s right to seek medical services by knowingly patrolling, picketing, or demonstrating in a very limited zone extending fifteen feet from a health care facility, or driveway or parking facility.

Please know this legislation is not intended to limit the free speech rights of any individual.  Other states including Colorado and Massachusetts, and some municipalities such as Pittsburgh have instituted “buffer zone laws.”  These laws were not imposed on a whim; they were a response to increasing threats, confrontation and even deadly violence. It is important to note that buffer zones have been credited, in part, with toning down volatile instances and confrontations.”

Senator Farnese, using his own experience as a clinic escort, describes the legislation he has introduced:

“This legislation will provide safe access to essential health care services when patients are seeking family planning and reproductive health services.  Often, patients seeking services at a healthcare facility are verbally and physically harassed and intimidated.  Having had experience as an escort for women into health care facilities, I have seen first-hand the potential for violent confrontations between patients and demonstrators.

This legislation will be carefully crafted to ensure that patients have unimpeded access to medical services while still protecting First Amendment rights to communicate a message.  In order to ensure both parties’ rights and safety are maintained, this legislation will provide clear guidance regarding restricted entry zones around entrances and driveways of medical facilities.

Currently, Pennsylvania has no such statewide buffer zone.  Two municipalities, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, have enacted buffer zone ordinances.  Providing for a content-neutral buffer zone at all medical facilities in Pennsylvania will promote the health and welfare of those who visit those facilities for services while maintaining protection for those individuals who would voice their constitutionally protected speech outside such a facility.”

Increased eligibility for breast and cervical cancer screenings:

This legislation allows women between ages of 30 and 65 to apply and qualify for the state Healthy Woman Program. H.B. 1900, sponsored by Rep. Maria Donatucci, D-Philadelphia/Delaware, was introduced on January 2, 2014 and is awaiting review in the House Human Services Committee.  There is not a companion Senate bill yet.

Representative Donatucci describes the need for greater access to breast and cervical cancer screening:

“The statistics surrounding breast and cervical cancers are truly alarming. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2010, 206,966 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States, and 40,996 women died from the disease.  Except for skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women and is one of the most deadly. While the risk of contracting breast cancer increases with age, large numbers of young women face the reality of this disease every year. With regards to cervical cancer, the disease is often not diagnosed because of missed opportunities for screening, early diagnosis, and treatment. All women are at risk for the disease, but it is most common in women over the age of 30. Each year, about 12,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer.

Act 74 established a program to support breast and cervical cancer screening services to low-income, underinsured, and uninsured women 40 to 49 years of age through DoH’s Healthy Woman Program. Before the implementation of Act 74, the program only had sufficient federal funding to provide these screening services to women ages 50 to 64. Today, the program is funded through a combination of department funds and through a grant DoH receives from CDC. My legislation will increase access to these important health screenings [by lowering the age of initial access to women.  This would] allow women between the ages of 30 and 65 to qualify for the Healthy Woman Program if they meet all other applicable requirements. The statistics show that these types of cancer are not confined to women of a particular age. As such, screening qualifications should be expanded in this state to reflect this reality. The money we spend on screening today saves thousands in treatment costs down the road.”

Co-Sponsorship Memo Being Circulated

Workplace accommodations for pregnant women:

This legislation requires an employer to make reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions unless those accommodations would prove an undue hardship on the employer’s operations. Two bills, one in the House and one in the Senate were announced on December 11, 2013.  H.B. 1892 is sponsored by Representative Mark Painter, D-Montgomery; and S.B. 1209 is sponsored by Senator Matt Smith, D-Allegheny. Both bills are currently being circulated for co-sponsors.

Senator Smith’s co-sponsorship memo summarizes his bill (S.B. 1209) this way:

“Currently, federal law protects women from being fired or otherwise discriminated against due to pregnancy; however it does not require employers to provide pregnant women with certain necessary and temporary accommodations to ensure their health and safety during pregnancy. My legislation would bridge this gap.

Three-quarters of women entering the workforce will be pregnant and employed at the same time during their careers, and my legislation would ensure that they can balance each part of their life in a way that is safe and practical for all parties involved.”

Representative Painter has named his version of this legislation The Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.  His co-sponsorship memo describes HB 1892 this way:

“This year marks the 35th anniversary of the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA).  The PDA amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit employment discrimination due to childbirth, pregnancy, or similar related medical conditions.

Today, unfortunately, pregnancy discrimination remains a persistent and growing problem.

In the majority of cases, the accommodations women need are minor, such as permission to sit periodically, the ability to carry a water bottle, or help lifting heavy objects.  Those women who continue working without having these medically-advised accommodations risk their health and increase the likelihood of pregnancy complications.

Pregnancy discrimination causes significant and long-term harm to women and their families well beyond pregnancy, to include the loss of health benefits, job seniority, and wages.  These losses also contribute to measurable long-term gender-based pay differences.

The Pennsylvania Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would make it unlawful for a covered entity to refuse reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions unless those accommodations would prove an undue hardship on the entity’s operations.”

Other Women’s Healthcare Bills in Pennsylvania that Are Being Discussed but Have Not Yet Been Introduced

As I mentioned in my blog at the end of September when the Women’s Health Agenda Caucus first met, there are a total of at least 24 bills that are/will be part of the “Agenda for Women’s Health.”  At least two of these bills are directly related to Reproductive Justice and Health. They were not part of the original roll-out, but are somewhere in the process of being written and/or circulated for co-sponsorship. I do not know when these bills will be introduced.

  • Inmate Shackling: Strengthen pregnant inmate shackling law (Act 45 of 2010) to cover the entire pregnancy and a reasonable postpartum period for mother-child bonding and to eliminate the tasering of any incarcerated woman known to be pregnant.
  • Medical Professional Conscientious Right to Refuse to Deliver Medically Inaccurate Information: Protect physician-patient relationships from political intrusion.

So on this 41st anniversary of Roe, I will celebrate this day by reiterating a statement I made on December 11, 2013:

“The ideas for change in this package of bills come from real-life stories of women. They include calls to service agencies, cries for help on hot lines, requests for advocacy, and lots of research to back up the anecdotal stories. As advocates, we realize there are other areas of concern, but believe the Women’s Health Caucuses’ agenda items are a great start.”

Thanks to everyone who is working for these two pro-active women’s health agendas. Thanks to the advocates across the country who have taken the momentum to stand up for our lives. And have a great Roe v. Wade Day as we go on the offense for women’s health and lives.

Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health Initial Roll-Out

Logo for the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women's Health

Logo for the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health

On December 11, the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s Health Agenda Caucuses rolled out the first set of bills that are part of the Pennsylvania Women’s Health Agenda.  The Agenda was spearheaded by Representative Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny), Senator Judy Schwank (D-Berks) and Senator Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks and Montgomery). These legislators were assisted by several of their colleagues, including  Representatives Mary Jo Daley (D-Montgomery), Tina Davis (D-Bucks), Maria Donatucci (D-Delaware and Philadelphia), Erin Molchany (D-Allegheny), Mark Painter (D-Montgomery), and Brian Sims (D-Philadelphia) made the announcement of the roll-out. They announced that this first set of bills would soon be going to committee.

Video Statements

During the media advisory session, several of the Representatives were videotaped by the Pennsylvania House.  Here are those videos:

Representative Dan Frankel Announcing the Roll-Out of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health

Representative Brian Sims and Erin Molchany Introducing the Pay Equity Bill

Representative Sims spoke first:

Then Representative Molchany followed up with additional information:

Representative Tina Davis Introducing Digital Intimate Partner Violence Bill.

This bill would “make revenge acts that include pictures of partners who are naked or involved in sexual acts illegal.”

Representative Mark Painter Introducing Employment Discrimination Protections for Pregnant Women Bill

Representative Mary Jo Daley Introducing Bill to Require Sanitary Conditions in the Workplace for Breastfeeding Women

Representative Maria Donatucci Introducing Bill to Expand Access to Cervical Cancer Screenings

Advocates Support the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health

Standing next to the legislators were representatives of many different advocacy groups who stood in support of this agenda.  The Women’s Law Project was the lead organization in working with the legislators to help create this agenda.  Pennsylvania NOW was also there.  None of the organizations present spoke at the press conference but did deliver their Statements of Support to the media.  Here are the statements from these two organizations.

Women’s Law Project

This statement is currently posted on the Women’s Law Project Legislative Action page and is repeated here just in case the URL is moved:

Women’s Law Project Commends Groundbreaking State Legislative Initiative
To Improve Women’s Health

Harrisburg, PA – The Women’s Law Project and its civic engagement action arm, WomenVote PA, commend the Women’s Health Caucus, a bipartisan, bicameral caucus of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, as it unveils the first phase of a comprehensive Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health. Led by Representative Dan Frankel and Senators Judy Schwank and Chuck McIlhinney, the Caucus is taking a proactive, positive approach to helping women by addressing a wide range of legal and policy barriers to women’s health and equality.

Each component of the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health arises out of the struggles of real women in Pennsylvania. The first phase of the agenda includes legislation protecting pregnant women in the workplace, filling gaps in protection for nursing mothers at work, ensuring that women’s health centers are safe and accessible, prohibiting wage secrecy, extending health screenings to more women, stopping intimate partner harassment, and ensuring that domestic violence victims are not punished for contacting law enforcement.

“Although we’ve made progress over the years, it’s a well-documented fact that women’s health and well-being are still not a priority in Pennsylvania,” said Carol Tracy, Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project. “This legislation will address real problems that real women have every day, solutions as simple as enabling a pregnant woman to carry a water bottle during her shift and ensuring that women earn the same amount as a man doing the same job. This legislation is the beginning of a full-scale effort by the Pennsylvania Women’s Health Caucus focused on leveling that playing field for good.”

“This new legislative focus on real women’s real health needs is long overdue,” said Sue Frietsche, Senior Staff Attorney with the Women’s Law Project’s Western Pennsylvania office. “For far too long, the Pennsylvania legislature has obsessively focused on restricting women’s access to reproductive health care. That is not what women want or need. We want sensible laws that improve the lives of women, not more roadblocks to women’s health.”

Kate Michelman, renowned feminist and co-chair of WomenVote PA, stated, “Rather than helping women achieve the equality they deserve, the Pennsylvania legislature has spent unprecedented time and energy on creating barriers to contraception and abortion.” She continued, “We can’t afford to continue to be one of the worst states in the nation for women,” citing a recent report assigning Pennsylvania a “C-” grade, and ranking the Commonwealth 28th out of the 50 states in its treatment of women. “The Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health has the potential to change that, and it deserves the support of every person in this state.”

For more details on the proposed legislation, please visit our web site in the coming weeks for updates, as well as visiting the WomenVote PA web site.

WomenVote PA is the non-partisan action arm of the Women’s Law Project. For more information go to www.womenvotepa.org

Pennsylvania NOW

This statement was crafted by Caryn Hunt, President-Elect; Susan Woodland, Secretary-Elect and current  At-Large Member of the Executive Committee, and myself.

Pennsylvania NOW Supports the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health

HARRISBURG, December 11, 2013—The Pennsylvania state chapter of the National Organization for Women (PA NOW) applauds the work of the House and Senate Women’s Health Caucuses as they roll out a comprehensive plan to address the real issues affecting Pennsylvania women today. Spearheaded by Representative Dan Frankel, Senator Judy Schwank and Senator Chuck McIlhinney in conjunction with the Women’s Law Project, and then developed by a broad coalition of Pennsylvania advocacy organizations that work on behalf of women every day, it is based on years of experience about what women want and need to stay healthy. This Agenda goes a long way to redressing entrenched inequities for women in Pennsylvania.

“Pennsylvania Republicans, like their counterparts in other state legislatures, have obsessed about women’s reproductive rights and have waged a non-stop campaign to control them from the capital, rolling back not just access to safe, legal abortion, but also the sense that women are full citizens entitled to a government and society that also works for them,” said Pennsylvania NOW President-Elect Caryn Hunt. “This agenda provides an antidote to the shallow, rhetorical policy-making of those in the General Assembly who have led the calls for women’s restrictions and called it concern for women’s health. It’s refreshing to see so many bills introduced that will genuinely help women, and that together provide a much truer portrait of the needs women want their representatives to address.”

These first bills address a variety of concerns for women: pregnancy accommodation is a common sense step to ensure that pregnant women are treated not as liabilities, but as persons with a temporary need for reasonable accommodations in the workplace; the bill to provide at 15-foot buffer zone around entrances to health clinics is a necessity in our state to make sure women seeking reproductive healthcare are able to access it in an orderly and safe manner; bills targeting “pay secrecy” and the “factor other than sex” loophole will help to end practices that for too long have enabled employers to pay women less than men for the same work. Other bills fill gaps in existing protections for nursing mothers, victims of intimate partner harassment and of domestic violence.

“The ideas for change in this package of bills come from real-life stories of women,” added Joanne Tosti-Vasey, President Emerita and Lobbyist for Pennsylvania NOW. “They include calls to service agencies, cries for help on hot lines, requests for advocacy, and lots of research to back up the anecdotal stories. As advocates, we realize there are other areas of concern, but believe the Women’s Health Caucuses’ agenda items are a great start.”

Pennsylvania NOW has high hopes for the Women’s Health Agenda. Finally, the concerns and needs of Pennsylvania are being honestly addressed by their representatives, rather than attacked and abridged.

I will report on more of these bills as they are announced.

Pennsylvania’s Proposed Women’s Health Agenda

Kate Michelman

Kate Michelman discussing strategy with women’s health care advocates and members of the General Assembly Health Care Agenda Caucus.

Yesterday (Monday, September 30, 2013), I attended a two-hour meeting with Pennsylvania’s House and Senate members of the joint Women’s Health Agenda Caucus led by Representative Dan Frankel of Pittsburgh. Some of the advocacy groups attending the meeting included the Women’s Law Project (WLP), Women Vote PA, and members of the Pennsylvanians for Choice coalition including Pennsylvania NOW whom I represented.

For a very long time Pennsylvania has focused on restricting women’s access to abortion services – currently accounting for over 1270 pages of legislation and regulations in the state.  This wrong-headed approach to health assumes that women’s sole need is to protect them from safe, legal access to decent abortion care services.  In other words, the state has wrong-headedly been crafting laws and regulations to deny access to abortion, sending more and more women to the back alleys similar to the Gosnell clinic and ignoring the broader issues of women’s health equity.

Women’s concerns about their health are broadly based in bias based on gender. Terry L. Fromson, Amal Bass, Carol E. Tracy, Susan Frietsche of the Women’s Law Project  created a report entitled Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women in 2012.  The WLP is Pennsylvania’s feminist legal organization that engages in litigation, advocacy, and education to ensure women’s equality and treatment in Pennsylvania. This report set the context for yesterday’s meeting.  The WLP framed the health care agenda as follows in this report and in the meeting this morning:

The legal and social status of American women has changed dramatically in the last fifty years. Half a century ago, it was legal to segregate jobs by sex, to refuse to hire or promote on the basis of a person’s sex, to fire women who became pregnant, and to limit the number of women admitted to professional schools such as law and medicine. Sexual and domestic violence were hidden from public view and public policy. Abortion was illegal and the birth control pill was not yet on the market. Today, women have taken their place in the working world and educational opportunities for women have expanded exponentially. Sexual and domestic violence are recognized as crimes and some resources are available to its victims. Abortion is legal and birth control is available.

Despite these advances, deeply embedded cultural biases and stereotypes about women’s place in society continue to impede women’s equal participation in society. In our homes and communities women are subjected to violence, poverty, and the burden of care taking responsibilities. In the workplace, women are paid less than men for the same work, remain concentrated in stereotypically female low-paying occupations, are subjected to sexual harassment and discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and care giving, and are denied advancement to managerial and higher paying positions. In school, young women are denied their fair share of sports opportunities and are sexually harassed and violated. Women are denied essential reproductive health care and subjected to discrimination in access to insurance coverage. Women pay more than men for the same coverage, and pregnancy is a preexisting condition that often denies pregnant women access to insurance coverage and therefore maternity care.  Access to abortion has been limited by burdensome legislative requirements, and providers and patients have been terrorized by an increasingly violent opposition. Attacks on access to contraceptive services have grown.

While many laws have been adopted to eliminate sex discrimination at work and at school, gaps persist that must be filled and enforcement needs to be strengthened. This is particularly true in Pennsylvania. While some Pennsylvania cities have outlawed employment discrimination on the basis of care-giving responsibilities and provide other accommodations for women who work, the Pennsylvania legislature has failed to adopt a statewide prohibition on discrimination on the basis of caregiver status or to provide family leave for caregivers. In Pennsylvania, the law permits insurers to price the cost of health insurance higher for women than for men, resulting in women paying more for individual health insurance policies and small employers paying more for health insurance for a predominantly female workforce. Pennsylvania’s sexual assault laws have for the most part eliminated discriminatory provisions, but the myths and stereotypes that continue to infect the criminal justice system hinder the investigation and prosecution of these crimes. The health care perspective on domestic violence and sexual assault is far too limited. Sexual assault is treated as a health care matter primarily in the immediate aftermath of a rape, even though the physical and emotional health consequences can be long lasting. Although a number of health care providers recognize that domestic violence is also a health issue, screening for domestic violence in health care settings is not universal. Poverty, which disproportionately impacts women, exacerbates the impact of sex bias in all of these realms….

Pennsylvania, with 6.5 million women, has consistently been found deficient in national studies on women’s health care measures. In their 2010 health report card, the National Women’s Law Center and Oregon Health & Science University placed Pennsylvania 32 among the 50 states and graded it unsatisfactory with respect to the status of women’s health….

To alleviate women’s health problems, it is necessary to eliminate adverse experiences — discrimination and bias — early in life and throughout life — and to improve access to health care, with an emphasis on care essential to women (pp. x-xii).

Representative Frankel heard this call to refocus the legislature from attacking women’s reproductive health to focusing — just like New York state’s “10 Point Plan for Women’s Equality” — on redirecting legislation in the General Assembly towards a women’s health equity agenda. So yesterday, almost 20 legislators from both houses attended a meeting with advocates seeking to improve women’s lives and health through a broad review and revision of Pennsylvania law.  The agenda covers reproductive health, women’s economic security, and women’s safety.

The ideas for change come from real-life stories of women in the state.  Calls to service agencies. Cries for help on hot lines. Requests for advocacy. And of course lots of research to back up the anecdotal stories.  The 24 suggested changes to Pennsylvania law that were presented are in areas where either no legislation has been introduced or where legislation to improve the bias are lagging or need to be revisited.  We, as advocates, understand that there are other areas of concern, but believe these health care agenda items are a good start.

Some of these ideas are conceptual at this point. Some have some preliminary model wording for new legislation, and some are already in the works.  Here’s the agenda:

Protect and Expand Women’s Reproductive Health Rights

  1. Pregnancy Accommodations:  Require employers to provide accommodations to pregnant employees with temporary pregnancy-related conditions to allow workers to remain employed throughout their pregnancies while imposing minimal burdens on employers.
  2. Support for Breastfeeding Mothers in the Workplace: Require all employers to provide compensated break time and a private, sanitary (not a bathroom) for all employees who need to express milk.
  3. Buffer Zones:  Enact a statewide reproductive health care clinic buffer zone statute to protect safe access to essential health care.
  4. Inmate Shackling: Strengthen pregnant inmate shackling law (Act 45 of 2010) to cover the entire pregnancy and a reasonable post-partum period for mother-child bonding and to eliminate the tasering of any woman known to be pregnant.
  5. Medical Professional Conscientious Right to Refuse to Deliver Medically Inaccurate Information: Protect physician-patient relationships from political intrusion.

    Improve Women’s Economic Security

  6. TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) Grant Amount: Increase TANF cash assistance grant levels.
  7. TANF Asset Limit: Increase the TANF eligibility asset limit to encourage saving and financial independence.
  8. Earned Income Disregard: Increase the earned income disregard and apply it to applicants as well as recipients.  FYI, the earned income disregard allows very-low income workers to continue receiving TANF, food stamps, and Medicaid if they make 50% or less of the poverty level.  This proposed legislation would raise this “disregard” level to 75% and would apply to applicants as well as recipients.
  9. Childcare Works Waiting List: Eliminate the childcare works waiting list.
  10. TANF Pre-Application Job Search: Eliminate or modify the TANF pre-application job search requirements.
  11. Minimum Wage: Increase Pennsylvania’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00/hour.
  12. Gender Wage Gap: Strengthen Pennsylvania law to eliminate the 24% gender wage gap by prohibiting retaliation against employees for discussing wages (“pay secrecy”) and closing the “factor other than sex” defense to apply only to bona fide business-related factors.
  13. Family Responsibilities Employment Discrimination: Prohibit family responsibilities discrimination in employment by amending the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act to prohibit family status discrimination in employment pursuant to an expanded definition of familial status to encompass the true scope of familial responsibilities shouldered by employees.
  14. Paid Family and Sick Leave: Require all employers to provide employees with paid family and sick leave
  15. Spousal Pension Benefits: Require spousal consent when a retiring state employee chooses how his or her pension benefits should be paid consistent with federal law protecting each spouse from his or her spouse’s selection of a pension benefit in all privately-sponsored pension plans and laws adopted by other states.
  16. Domestic Worker Protection: Amend Pennsylvania anti-discrimination laws to provide domestic workers protection from employment discrimination
  17. Sexual Harassment: Extend the prohibition on sexual harassment in employment to all employers, even small employers.

    Protect Women’s Personal Safety

  18. Paid Leave for Domestic Violence, Sexual Violence, and Stalking Victims: Require employers to provide paid leave to obtain assistance for and pursue legal protection against domestic and sexual violence and stalking.
  19. Housing Discrimination: Prohibit private and public housing discrimination against domestic violence victims.
  20. Civil Orders of Protection for Sexual Violence and Stalking Victims: Authorize courts to issue civil orders of protection for sex crime and stalking victims.
  21. Absolute Privilege for Student Victims: Protect victims/witnesses of sexual assault who testify in school grievance proceedings from being sued by their harassers.
  22. Human Trafficking: Strengthen Pennsylvania’s criminal statute on human trafficking.
  23. Veterans’ Real Estate Tax Exemption: Amend Pennsylvania law to provide veterans real estate tax exemption for veterans suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) due to sexual victimization during service and appoint women representatives to the House and Senate Committees on Veteran Affairs and to the Pennsylvania State Veterans Commission.
  24. Voting Reform: Reform voting rules to provide online registration, same day in person registration, early voting, including early in person voting on weekends.

These ideas will be discussed in continuing meetings between members of the General Assembly’s Health Care Agenda Caucus and advocates for women’s equality.  I’ll post more on these issues as this legislative program becomes better defined.

Call for Paycheck Fairness Act Co-Sponsorship

The wage gap shows that women, particularly women of color are paid significantly less than white men.

The Wage Gap: Lack of Equal Pay

On April 9, I did a blog on Equal Pay Day discussing the lack of equity in pay between men and women’s work.  In that blog, I discussed the need to pass the federal Paycheck Fairness Act.

Part of the process of obtaining passage of a bill is to get as many legislators as possible to sign on as a co-sponsor of the bill you are interested in.  In the US House of Representatives, there are currently 206 co-sponsors of the House version of the bill – H.R. 377. In the US Senate, there are currently 46 co-sponsors of the Senate version, S. 84.

The main coalition pushing for paycheck fairness and pay equity is the National Committee on Pay Equity.  This morning, I opened up an email from a listserv I’m on regarding the Paycheck Fairness Act. Michele Leber, Chair of the National Committee on Pay Equity sent out the following message, asking everyone to spread the word to their friends and colleagues in Virginia. Here’s what she said:

“We learned yesterday [April 24] from the office of Rosa DeLauro, our pay equity champion in the House of Representatives, that every Democrat in the House is now a PFA cosponsor! To reach that goal in the Senate, we need just a few more Democrats, among them Mark Warner of Virginia.

At a meeting yesterday in Warner’s office, his legislative aide said the best way to get Warner’s cosponsorship was to send the senator messages of support for the bill. So please rally any contacts, groups, or chapters that you have in Virginia, asking persons to contact Sen. Warner’s office by phone at 202-224-2023 and/or by e-mail at http://www.warner.senate.gov/public//index.cfm?p=ContactPage, asking him to cosponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act, S.84.

With the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Equal Pay Act coming up on June 10, this is particularly important now.”

So…

If you live in Virginia and are a constituent, please follow Michelle’s request and contact Senator Warner regarding co-sponsorship.

If you don’t live in Virginia, you can find out where your US legislators stand on the Paycheck Fairness Act by going to http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php. In the search box in the middle of the page, type in “Paycheck Fairness Act” and click search.  On the next page, two bills will show up—S. 84 and H.R. 377.  This page provides several links to information about both of these bills—text, bill history, co-sponsors, etc. If you click on “cosponsors” for each bill, you can determine if your representatives are publicly supporting the bill or not. If they are a sponsor, thank them and then ask them to call for a hearing and vote on the bill.  If they are not, ask them to sign on.

Thanks.

What is Equal Pay Day and Why Should I Care?

For the last three years, my local NOW chapter—Ni-Ta-Nee NOW—has organized community education events surrounding Equal Pay Day and paycheck fairness.

A frequent question we have is, “What’s Equal Pay Day and why should I care?”  To help answer that question, we have done op-eds and interviews with the local press (See here and here).  We also create a flyer that we update each year.  As President of Pennsylvania NOW, I wrote another blog on this issue in 2011. And elsewhere on my blog site, I have commented on the need for fairness in pay.

Today, we will once again be distributing Equal Pay Day flyers in front of the gates of The Pennsylvania State University over the dinner hour today.

Why today? Because Equal Pay Day moves from year to year. For 2013, that day is April 9.

The following is a web-based version of this flyer.  The hard-copy version focuses on Pennsylvania.  I have kept that information here; I’ve also added commentary and links for information and contacts in other states.

TUESDAY APRIL 9TH 2013

EQUAL PAY DAY

IT’S THE DAY ON WHICH WOMEN’S WAGES CATCH UP WITH MEN’S WAGES FROM THE PREVIOUS YEAR.

Equal Pay Day symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work full-time, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year.  In 2013, it took 2 days MORE than in 2011 and 8 days LESS than in 2012 for a woman to earn as much as a man earned in the entire year.

THE WAGE GAP

National Perspective

The wage gap shows that women, particularly women of color are paid significantly less than white men.

The Wage Gap: Lack of Equal Pay

The wage gap is the ratio of women’s to men’s median annual earnings for full-time, full-year workers. Based on these earnings, women earned just 82% of what men earned (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013).

Nationally, Asian American women have the smallest wage gap, earning 88% of what the average white man earned in 2012. White women are next, earning approximately 81% of white men’s average income. African-American women (68%) and Hispanic women (59%) have the largest wage gaps compared to white men (Institute for Women’s Policy Research, March 2013).

A typical woman earns $431,000 less in pay over 40 years due to this wage gap. (Center for American Progress, 2012)

At the current rate of progress, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates that it will be 2057 before women’s wages reach parity and Equal Pay Day will finally be on December 31 rather than somewhere in April of the following year!

Pennsylvania Perspective

The wage gap is just as bad, if not worse, in our state. When ranked among the other 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, Pennsylvania’s wage gap placed it 34th (Women’s Law Center calculation based on American Community Survey Briefs, April 2013).  You can look up your state’s pay equity ranking at this site as well if you don’t live in Pennsylvania.

The median annual income for a woman working full-time, year round in Pennsylvania in 2011 was $37,089, compared to men’s $47,956. This is a wage gap of 77% (Women’s Law Center calculation based on American Community Survey Briefs, April 2013). A typical woman in PA earns $459,000 less in pay over 40 years due to this wage gap. This gap rises to $722,000 for women who have earned college degrees. (Center for American Progress, 2010)

WHAT CAN I DO??

If You are an Employer

If you are an employer, you can get help in examining pay practices by conducting an equal pay self-audit using the guidelines from the US Department of Labor (available at www.pay-equity.org/cando-audit.html).

If You Believe You Are Experiencing Wage-Based Discrimination

Tell your employer if you are being paid less than your male co-workers. Click here for some tips on negotiating for pay equity.

If there’s a union, ask for their help.

If discrimination persists: There are three places to file complaints – at the federal level, at the state level, and at the local level.

At the Federal Level

You can file under federal law with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Go to this link and follow the instructions.

At the State Level

You can find your state’s anti-discrimination agency website and contact information in a pdf file created by Legal Momentum starting on page 28.  Most of the agencies have a website address that you can copy and paste into your browser.  All of the agencies have a phone number that you can call for assistance.

If you live in Pennsylvania, you can file a complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission in Harrisburg.  Contact information is available by region.  Just go to their website and look for your county’s name.  The phone number and address for your regional office is listed directly above the names of the counties served by each office.

At the Local Level

There are a few communities throughout the country that have created local ordinances that include the state-based anti-discrimination protections and have also expanded coverage to other areas (such as protections based on sexual orientation, family status, and/or family responsibilities across the life-span).

You should therefore check to see if your local county, city, or community has an ordinance providing similar protections for wage-based discrimination. If so, you can more conveniently file a wage-based complaint at the local level.  Check with your state’s anti-discrimination agency (see info above under “At the State Level”) to see if there is a local ordinance in your community.

In Pennsylvania, there are about 30 communities with such an ordinance. Your regional office of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission can give you this information, along with whom to contact.

One of these 30 communities in Pennsylvania is State College, PA, where the main campus of The Pennsylvania State University is located. Their ordinance covers wage-based discrimination based on sex as well as color (race), religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status, marital status, age, mental or physical disability, use of guide or support animals and/or mechanical aids.  If you work within the State College, PA borough, you can file a complaint with them under their Employment Anti-Discrimination Ordinance at 814.234.7110 (Side note: I was one of the people instrumental in crafting this ordinance).

Supporting and Advocating for Paycheck Fairness

Ask your Congressional representatives to co-sponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act – HR 377 in the US House of Representatives and S 84 in the US Senate).  The Paycheck Fairness Act updates and strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963. It gives women the tools they need to challenge the wage gap itself.

You can find out where your representatives stand on the Paycheck Fairness Act by going to http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php. In the search box in the middle of the page, type in “Paycheck Fairness Act” and click search.  On the next page, two bills will show up—SR 84 and HR 377.  This page provides several links to information about both of these bills—text, bill history, co-sponsors, etc. If you click on “cosponsors” for each bill, you can determine if your representatives are publicly supporting the bill or not. If they are a sponsor, thank them and then ask them to call for a hearing on vote on the bill.  If they are not, ask them to sign on.

And For More Information

Visit http://www.pay-equity.org – the website created by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE).  NCPE is a coalition of women’s and civil rights organizations; labor unions; religious, professional, legal, and educational associations, commissions on women, state and local pay equity coalitions and individuals.”  They are dedicated to ending wage-based discrimination and achieving pay equity. If you like what they are doing, you can join and become a member.

This blog today by Erin Matson focuses, like my blog today, on pay equity and the Paycheck Fairness Act.  These are just some of the several issues we are both passionate about. In addition to providing another perspective on paycheck fairness, she also goes into some detail about introducing yourself to and talking to members of Congress. As this is part of my recommendations in the blog I just wrote and posted, I decided to reblog her so that you have more information to help successfully advocate for pay equity and civil rights for all.

Erin Matson

This is the first in what will be a regular series, Your Activism Guide, designed to make feminist activism more accessible and help you take the power you deserve. 

Purpose: Introduce yourself to your members of Congress.

Process: Set up meetings now to drop by local offices (even if you don’t have a specific request, even if the legislator tends to vote against your interests).

Payoff: Existing relationships can bring the most unexpected of benefits.

A few days ago, the American Association of University Women and National Women’s Law Center hosted a Tweet Chat to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which reversed a Supreme Court decision that had effectively gutted the ability to sue for wage discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Joining the conversation to answer questions was Lilly Ledbetter herself.

This is a topic that gets me all hot…

View original post 1,246 more words

Paycheck Fairness Act and the ERA

Yesterday, a reporter from the local newspaper contacted me regarding a press conference that was held by Senator Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA). During that press conference, Senator Casey discussed a report highlighting the fact that women in Pennsylvania earn 18.3 percent less than their male peers.

This earning differential is known as the Pay or Wage Gap.  The commonly used measure to determine the wage gap is the ratio of women’s to men’s median annual earnings for full-time, full-year workers.  Nationally, in 2011, women earned just 77 percent of what men earned.  That’s a national wage gap of 23 percent.  Although Pennsylvania appears to be doing better than the nation on pay equity, we are still being short-changed.

For women of color, the wage gap is even worse.  According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Asian American women have the smallest wage gap, earning 91 percent of what the average white man earned in 2010. White women are next, earning approximately 81 percent of white men’s average income. African-American women (70 percent) and Hispanic women (60 percent) have the largest wage gaps as compared to white men.

So why did Jessica VanderKolk call me for a comment about Senator Casey’s press conference? The message she left on the phone was that she was interested in what I thought of Casey’s stance on pay inequity, partly as a follow-up to an article she did on this issue in May 2012, where I was also quoted.  She wanted to know why I thought there had been almost no change in wage gap in the last year and what I thought needed to happen in order to eliminate this problem.

My first statement to her was that pay inequity is unfair and unjust.  She quoted me in the news article this morning,

“It takes just as much to feed a woman’s family as a man’s family and put a roof over your head,” Tosti-Vasey said. “Gender should have no basis [in determining] your salary.”

We then went on to discuss the main point of Senator Casey’s press conference: his support and co-sponsorship of the Paycheck Fairness Act.  This bill was introduced again for the fourth time on January 23, 2013 (Casey signed on as a co-sponsor on January 30, 2013 right after announcing his support of S.R. 84).

The Paycheck Fairness Act updates and strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963. It gives women the tools they need to challenge the wage gap itself.  According to the ACLU, both S.R. 84 and H.R. 377 include the following remedies and programs to help remove pay inequity:

  • Require employers to demonstrate that wage differentials between men and women holding the same position and doing the same work stem from factors other than sex.
  • Prohibit retaliation against workers who inquire about their employers’ wage practices or disclose their own wages.
  • Permit reasonable comparisons between employees within clearly defined geographical areas to determine fair wages.
  • Strengthen 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.
  • Encourage proactive enforcement of equal pay laws by re-instating the collection of wage-related data and providing for training for the workers who enforce our equal pay laws.
  • Modernize the Equal Pay Act to make it more in line with the class action procedures available under Title VII. It would not extend class action protections beyond what is available under other anti-discrimination laws.
  • provide important safeguards for businesses, including:
    • providing an exemption for small businesses;
    • instituting a six months waiting period from the time of enactment and requiring the Department of Labor to assist small businesses with compliance; and
    • Recognizing employers for excellence in their pay practices and strengthening federal outreach and assistance to all businesses to help improve equal pay practices.

Yet if people in general understand that paying someone less for doing the same job is unfair, why is this bill now in its fourth iteration? I was asked this question by Jessica Vandervolk during our phone call.  She paraphrased my comment, stating that Senator Casey and I agree on this issue:

[Tosti-Vasey] said the lack of action so far may have to do with the conservative climate, and Casey added that he hopes the 2012 election makes a difference.

The paraphrase is accurate, but somewhat incomplete.  I said that I believed that the lack of passage was mostly due to conservative legislators.  I continued by stating that this is particularly true in the US House of Representatives but also occurs among conservatives in the US Senate.  Why?  Just follow the campaign money.  These legislators listen to lobbyists and business honchos who want full control over how much they pay others. If employers can get away with paying less and discriminating against one segment of their workforce, then they will lobby and work to defeat any effort to change this scenario.  When elected officials’ campaign war-chests depend upon funds from uncaring, well-financed business owners and lobbyists, they vote no.

So I agree with Casey.  We have a slightly more caring House and Senate as a result of the November election and maybe we can get the Paycheck Fairness Act to become law during this session of Congress.  As constituents, let all of your legislators–both Senators and your US Representative—know that you want them to cosponsor (if they are not already a sponsor) and vote for the Paycheck Fairness Act as soon as possible.

You can find out where your representatives stand on the Paycheck Fairness Act by going to http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php. In the search box in the middle of the page, type in “Paycheck Fairness Act” and click search.  On the next page, 2 bills will show up—SR 84 and HR 377.  If you then click on “cosponsors” for each bill, you can determine if your representatives are publicly supporting the bill or not.

Meanwhile this might never have come up as an issue to fight in Congress OVER and OVER and OVER again if the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) had been ratified by 38 states and was now part of the US Constitution.  I recently blogged about why having an ERA is important, so check that out as well.  Once you have done that, go to the White House petition site and tell President Obama that you want him to work with Congress to finally get the ERA ratified.