Tuesday, August 4, 2009

EFCA: Who Will Take a Stand for Working Women?

Unions have been key in achieving justice for workers. Historically, unions have been a reliable way to reach economic self-sufficiency and the American dream. And in this economy, unions are integral to economic recovery.

Women have a huge stake in unionization and worker justice. And they have a huge stake in legislation that supports the rights of workers, which is why women's voices are critical to the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.

The Denver Post published, not only the views of the members of 9to5 in a recent Sunday guest commentary piece, but the vision of all of us who believe in a free choice.

You can read the op-ed here:

Stand up for working women: Pass EFCA

By Linda Meric
POSTED: 08/02/2009 01:00:00 AM MDT

When President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act in January, the nation's attention refocused for a short time on the pay inequity and gender bias that still plague the American workplace. That moment passed, and women are still paid less than men, earning only about 78 cents for every dollar, with women of color earning even less.

The Employee Free Choice Act is one sure way to address this gender-based pay gap. Unionization can provide important economic security for low-wage Colorado women and their families.

In Colorado, women who are in unions earn nearly 6 percent more than women who aren't union members. Nationwide, that difference is about 35 percent.

The benefits of union membership for women in low-wage occupations are even greater. Among those working in the 15 lowest-paying occupations, union members not only earned more than their non-union counterparts, they were also 26 percentage points more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and 23 percentage points more likely to have a pension plan than those who were not members of a union.

"For women, joining a union makes as much sense as going to college," said John Schmitt, a senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research and author of the CEPR study "Unions and Upward Mobility for Women Workers."

"All else equal," said Schmitt, "joining a union raises a woman's wage as much as a full year of college, and a union raises the chances a woman has health insurance by more than earning a four-year college degree."

Health insurance is just one of the positive workplace standards unions can provide for working women. Union representation is also one of the strongest predictors of family-flexible workplace policies.

More than 60 million American workers lack a single paid sick day to care for themselves when ill, and nearly 100 million workers lack paid sick time to care for an ill child. No one should lose a job because they have to care for themselves or a loved one. Companies with 30 percent or more unionized workers have been documented to be more likely than non-union companies to provide paid time off to care for sick children (65 percent compared to 46 percent).

That's why passage of the Employee Free Choice Act is so important. It would put the choice of how to form a union back into the hands of workers. A free choice means that workers would have the option of unionization if a majority of them sign up.

The Employee Free Choice Act will protect women and men who join together to negotiate with their employers for health care, fair wages, retirement security and paid sick days.

As President Obama said in signing Ledbetter, we owe a change to our daughters — and our sons.

Now is the time for that change. It's time that our economy worked for everyone again. Please join me in calling on Congress to stand up for working women and pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

Linda Meric is executive director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women, a membership organization of low-wage women working to improve corporate and public policies that directly affect them.