Monday, December 6, 2010

Two Million Americans Are Waiting ...

The news of the day centers on whether Congress will extend unemployment insurance benefits to the millions of American workers who are out of a job -- or if it will only do so if in a compromise agreement to pass tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Basically today's reports from Capitol Hill tell us that unemployed workers are being held hostage. Meanwhile, there are children to care for, mortgages and rent to be paiid, a holiday season upon us. Congress might be reminded of what it should do by this op-ed from 9to5 National Director Linda Meric. It must think like struggling families -- and extend unemployment benefits to jobless workers NOW!

Here is a link to the version of Meric's op-ed that appeared, appropriately, in the Baltimore AFRO, just 30 or so miles from the nation's Capitol.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lame Duck Congress: Help American Families Today, Don’t Let Unemployment Benefits Expire

by Linda A. Meric

There was good news for our flailing economy from the Bureau of Labor Statistics this month. More than 150,000 jobs were added in the United States in October and private sector payrolls grew by 159,000.

But there was some news that didn’t change: unemployment held steady at 9.6 percent. Almost 15 million Americans are out of work and more than 41 percent of them have been unemployed for six months or more. So, adding 150,000 jobs, while a good sign, is still just a drop in the economic bucket.

With job growth still sluggish, and with so many people out of work, it’s critical that unemployment benefits not be allowed to expire. President Obama has even expressed his support for this important step, saying “I think it makes sense for us to extend unemployment insurance because there are still a lot of folks out there hurting.”

But the President obviously can’t do it alone. This is a job for the lame duck Congress, returning to the hill this week – and partisan politics should not get in the way.

Emergency unemployment benefits are set to expire at the end of this month. If no extension is approved, two million American workers will lose their unemployment benefits – and more importantly lose their lifeline to economic security for themselves and their families – just in time for the holidays.

“The current expiration date will cause a cascade of unemployed workers to fall off the unemployment rolls, prematurely cutting benefits for some and making any form of an extension completely unavailable for others,” according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP). Plus, as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted, there are still far more unemployed workers than there are job openings.

This is worth noting, too: An extension of benefits does not mean that workers who have completely exhausted their benefits will get even one penny more. It only means that those who are currently receiving UI benefits will not get cut off mid stream.

It means that working women – who face staggering unemployment at the same time that women are now the primary or co-breadwinner in more than 2/3 of American families – will be able to provide for their families; to make ends meet. Really, every dollar provided in UI benefits for struggling families pumps two dollars back into our economy because they have so many needs. These aren’t dollars that get stored up somewhere for savings. These are dollars that are needed and spent right now; for food, for clothing, for rent, for utilities – to keep the lights on and the furnace going.

The lame duck Congress can’t leave American families out in the cold this holiday season.

It doesn’t have much time. It must extend emergency unemployment insurance benefits and do so quickly.

America’s families are waiting.

Meric is Executive Director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Congress Must Pass PFA & Other Critical Legislation

With the House and Senate expected to reconvene on November 15th, this will be the last opportunity for the 111thCongress to pass legislation deemed imperative by the coalition of more than 200 national civil and human rights organizations.

Passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act and the DREAM Act, a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” an extension of unemployment insurance, and the confirmation of President Obama’s judicial nominees have been identified as top priorities for the final months of 2010. Also, critically important is a Senate vote on the ratification of the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Here's what Wade Henderson, President & CEO of The Leadership Conference, has to say about these final months and lame duck priorities: “Now that the midterm elections are over, Americans expect Congress to work together on the important needs of our country..Each of these priorities will make our nation stronger and more just, and they deserve to be high on the list of ‘must-do’ legislation before the current Congress adjourns.”

As a member of the LCCR coalition of 200 organizations, 9to5 agrees with these priorities:

  • Passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act would deter pay discrimination by strengthening penalties for equal pay violations. “This Congress showed some remarkable backbone for women’s equality when it passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act,” said Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of The Leadership Conference. “Passing this legislation would reinforce this Congress’ commitment to narrowing the pay gap to help support family incomes and strengthen our economy.”
  • An extension of unemployment insurance, which is set expire at the end of this month, would provide a lifeline for millions of workers in the stalled economy. “Congress has never cut off unemployment benefits when the jobless rate was this high. Extending them will help the economy recover while providing badly needed assistance to workers unable to find jobs,” Henderson said.
  • Passage of the DREAM Act, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pledged to bring up for a vote during the lame duck session, would allow immigrant youths the opportunity to serve in our military, attend college, and earn citizenship. “The DREAM Act will help ensure that children who have worked hard, graduated from high school, and obeyed the law have the opportunity to be productive workers in the American economy,” Zirkin said.
  • The repeal of “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell,” which has been under consideration for several months, would strengthen our military and advance LGBT equality. “Our service members should not have to live in fear of dismissal simply for being gay or lesbian. In the face of two wars and dwindling recruitment, our military needs our best and brightest citizens to serve regardless of their race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation,” Henderson said.
  • The confirmation of pending judicial nominees who have faced a level of obstructionism that is unprecedented in American history. “People all over America are being denied justice because our overworked courts have more than 100 empty benches without judges to hear cases,” Zirkin said. “The Senate must put aside petty partisanship, eliminate obstructionist tactics, and commit to taking yes-or-no confirmation votes on the pending judicial nominees before adjourning.”
  • Ratification of CEDAW, a landmark international agreement that affirms principles of fundamental human rights and equality for women around the world. The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law has scheduled a hearing on the CEDAW treaty on November 18. “Ratifying the CEDAW treaty would continue America’s proud bipartisan tradition of promoting and protecting human rights,” said June Zeitlin, CEDAW Project director.
Write or call your members of Congress and ensure they know that these priorities are YOUR priorities.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Report Surveys Economic Landscape for Women

This might not seem like the Year of the Woman – especially if you peak into the pockets and purses of working women and especially if you consider the fact that we are still waiting for the U.S. Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

But if things seem grim, consider this: The White House has recently released a report, “Jobs and Economic Security for America’s Women,” written by the National Economic Council. The report gives us a lay of the land; tells us exactly how these tough economic times have affected women and our families and provides some next steps for us from the Obama Administration.

First of all, the bottom-line – women are pivotal to the economic recovery of this country.

“The economy has changed where women have made such enormous strides that they now constitute fully half of the workforce,” President Obama said in remarks accompanying the release of the report. “They actually constitute probably more than half of the money that’s coming in to middle-class families. And business—small business owners are now a much higher proportion women than they used to be. And so when you talk about what’s happened to the middle class, part of what you’re talking about is what’s happening to women in the workforce."

For one thing, as the Center for American Progress has told us, women are now the primary breadwinner or co-breadwinner in two thirds of American households. As of December 2009, 2.1 million women whose husbands were unemployed were working as the primary revenue earners for their families and 6.1 million single mothers are the sole providers for their households. Additionally, women own 30 percent or 7.8 million American small businesses that generated sales of over $1.2 trillion in 2007—an increase of 46 percent since 1997—and created roughly 500,000 jobs in those 10 years.

But all is not good for women workers.

Of the jobs that are being lost, more of them are occupied by women than by men. Women who are employed still face a wage gap, earning only 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man – and for women of color the gap is even wider. There is still a glass ceiling in many sectors of the economy, especially in the highest earning professions. And, many women still have to make choices that place their economic security at jeopardy; choices like whether to go to work or stay home and care for an ill child because of the lack of paid sick days.

Year of the Woman – that remains to be seen.

Read the report for yourself.

And there’s something else you can do. Be sure to contact your U.S. Senators and let them know that the Senate must make a priority of passing the Paycheck Fairness Act before this year ends. For more info, visit

Women and our families just can’t wait any longer to win economic justice.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Cost of Being Sick

As we prepare for 9to5's National Day of Action -- Healthy Workplaces: Paid Sick Days Now, we consider this question ... What is the real cost of being sick for working women and particularly for low-wage working women.

The writer of this column provides some answers.

After you're done reading this, don't forget to contact Asha Leong at to start planning YOUR event for the National Day of Action.

It really is true -- no worker should have to choose between the job she needs and the family she loves.
The Cost of Being Sick

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Recession hits women, especially Single Moms, hard

The news from Legal Momentum isn't good this week but reminds us that we must keep pushing toward economic justice for women and their families. Read the summary of a new report on the recession and single mother employment below. -- Linda Meric

The Impact of the Recession on Single Mother Employment:
Already High Unemployment Jumps Even Higher and More Single Mothers Reduced to Part-time Work

Single mothers have consistently experienced a far higher rate of unemployment than the population as a whole, and this pattern has continued during the economic downturn that began in December 2007. In 2007, the average monthly unemployment rate was 8.0 for single mothers compared to 4.6 for the population as a whole.

In 2009, the unemployment rate was 13.6 for single mothers compared to 9.3 for the population as a whole. The single mother unemployment rate may have grown even higher than 13.6 in 2010. Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) will not publish the single mother unemployment statistic until the year is over, BLS does publish on a monthly basis the unemployment rate for “women who maintain families,” about two-thirds of whom are single mothers.

The average monthly unemployment rate for women who maintain families was 11.9 in the first seven months of 2010, compared to 11.5 in 2009.

The economic downturn has also led to an increase in the fraction of employed single mothers who work only part-time from 18% in 2007 to 22% in 2009. (August 2010)

(For further information, contact Timothy Casey, Senior Staff Attorney,

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Need for Paid Sick Days Never Takes a Holiday

It’s summer -- a time for neighborhood barbeques, family road trips, lazy and hazy days. Summer fun is an American tradition, reminding us that we all occasionally need a break from the stresses and challenges of our lives.

Summer is a perfect time to remind ourselves that low-wage working women occasionally need time too; the time to care for ourselves and our families. Now’s the time to take action for paid sick days for all workers: to contact our Senators and remind them that, for the sake of our families, our nation’s public health and family economic security, we must ensure that all workers have access to paid sick days by passing the Healthy Families Act.

This summer – on Women’s Equality Day, August 26 – the members and activists of 9to5 will be doing just that in our National Day of Action, “Healthy Families: Paid Sick Days Now.” Some of us will perform street theater. Some will hold rallies. Others will conduct press conferences. We will all join our voices to say that no one should ever have to make the choice between caring for ourselves or a loved one in times of occasional illness and keeping our pay or our jobs.
Consider Asha’s family.

Asha a young working mother in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As a temporary hire, Asha had no paid sick days and could be fired for missing work – even if she or one of her children was ill. One day, she was sick and called in to say she would be late. When she arrived an hour later, two men escorted her to a large meeting room. They fired her. Her employer’s actions not only caused her to lose her job, but also to miss payment of her rent and other household bills. It took a long time for Asha to find another job.

Like Asha, nearly 60 million Americans lack a single paid sick day to care for themselves when occasional illness strikes. Nearly 100 million lack a paid sick day to care for an ill child. For these Americans, the lack of this basic labor standard presents unconscionable choices: whether to stay home and get better or go to work sick to keep from losing a job.

Those who must go to work sick not only jeopardize their own well-being, they threaten the public health. It was at the beginning of summer in June 2009 that the World Health Organization announced we were officially in the grip of a global H1N1 swine flu pandemic. President Barack Obama and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had previously urged those experiencing flu symptoms to stay home from school and work, see a doctor and avoid public contact until they recover. But American workers without paid sick days could not stay home because they risked losing their jobs. Illnesses were passed in fast-food restaurants, offices and schools.

Still, last summer’s threat of swine flu eventually passed and many of us haven’t given it another thought.

But now it’s summer again. And, soon, flu season will be upon us.

Especially as the economy still falters, especially as flu season approaches, especially because women are now the breadwinner or co-breadwinner in two-thirds of American families, we must have paid sick days now.

So, we’re asking you to join 9to5 on August 26, Women’s Equality Day, for our National Day of Action. We’re asking you to speak-out. We’re asking you to contact us for ideas on how to take action.

Illness never takes a holiday. Summer is the perfect time to ensure that the Healthy Families Act passes and guarantees paid sick days for all workers NOW.

Linda Meric is Executive Director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women

Thursday, July 1, 2010

9to5 Co-Sponsor of "Turning the Tide"

What women need are policies that do not place them as targets of unscrupulous employers, but that help them fight illegal labor practices like pay discrimination and help to close the pay gap (which disproportionately affects Latinas and other women of color) so they can support their children now and support themselves in retirement.

We don’t need laws that criminalize women and make them more vulnerable to harm, but laws that help make ALL women and their families successful and more able to live out the American dream. Join us in speaking out now -- that's why 9to5 has signed on to co-sponsor this important conference.

-- Linda Meric

Turning the Tide on Immigration Enforcement

National Women and Children’s Advocacy Day

Washington, DC *** July 15, 2010

On July 15, women and children from around the country will gather in Washington to share their stories and shine a light on the real life impact of immigration enforcement policies on families. In particular, policies like Arizona’s SB1070, 287g agreements and the so-called “Secure Communities” programs threaten the future for the next generation. Join us as we say, “enough is enough.”


10:00 Press Conference
Announcing participating organizations and 3:00 pm hearing

Location: TBA

10:30 Legislative Visit Orientation

Reviewing goals and messages for the day

11:00 Legislative Visits

Targeting members of the Caucus on Women’s Issues and the Children’s Caucus,

participants will share stories and concerns about the impact of SB1070, 287G and

other immigration enforcement policies on women, children and families.

3:00 Hearing – Impact of Immigration Enforcement Policy on Children

Chair: Congressman Raul Grijalva

Location: Rayburn 2237

4:00 Closing

Co-sponsoring Organizations: Puente Movement Arizona, National Domestic Workers Alliance, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, AFL-CIO, Family Values at Work Consortium, 9to5, National Association of Working Women . . . and others

Monday, June 28, 2010

US Department of Labor clarifies FMLA definition of ‘daughter and son

Interpretation is a win for all families

The U.S. Department of Labor last week clarified the definition of "son and daughter" under the Family and Medical Leave Act to ensure that a worker who assumes the role of caring for a child receives parental rights to family leave regardless of the legal or biological relationship.

From the News Release ...

"The FMLA allows workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period to care for loved ones or themselves. The 1993 law also allows employees to take time off for the adoption or the birth of a child. The administrator interpretation issued by Nancy J. Leppink, deputy administrator of the department's Wage and Hour Division, clarifies that these rights, which provide work-family balance, extend to the various parenting relationships that exist in today's world. This action is a victory for many non-traditional families, including families in the lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community, who often in the past have been denied leave to care for their loved ones.

"No one who loves and nurtures a child day-in and day-out should be unable to care for that child when he or she falls ill," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "No one who steps in to parent a child when that child's biological parents are absent or incapacitated should be denied leave by an employer because he or she is not the legal guardian. No one who intends to raise a child should be denied the opportunity to be present when that child is born simply because the state or an employer fails to recognize his or her relationship with the biological parent. These are just a few of many possible scenarios. The Labor Department's action today sends a clear message to workers and employers alike: All families, including LGBT families, are protected by the FMLA."

For more information please go to

Thursday, June 10, 2010

President Obama Calls for Passage of Paycheck Fairness Act

On this 47th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, women's rights activists have lifted their voices, calling on the U.S. Senate to end the bottleneck, pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and send it to the President's desk for signature.

Now, President Obama again lends his own voice to those calling for passage in this statement released today by the White House.

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

Statement by the President on the Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act

On June 10, 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed into law the Equal Pay Act, which sought to end wage discrimination on the basis of sex. At the time, women were paid 59 cents for every dollar earned by men. 47 years later, pay parity remains far from reality, as women in the United States still only earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. For women of color, this gap is even wider. This remains unacceptable, as it was when the Act was signed. All women – and their families – deserve equal pay. Women now make up nearly half of the nation’s workforce, most homes have two working parents, and 60 percent of all women work full-time. As we emerge from one of the worst recessions in American history, when families are struggling to pay their bills and save for the future, pay inequity only deepens that struggle and hampers our economy’s ability to fully recover.

But we have taken some important steps to address this inequality. I am proud that the first bill I signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restored the right to seek a remedy for women who, like the law’s namesake, face wage discrimination during their careers. In my State of the Union address, I pledged to crack down on violations of equal pay laws, and I’ve created the National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force, bringing together federal agencies to improve the enforcement of equal pay laws. We’ve also increased funding for federal agencies charged with enforcing equal pay laws and other civil rights statutes. The agencies themselves have taken steps to address disparities. For instance, the Department of Labor Women's Bureau is conducting research and analysis, providing technical assistance, and building partnerships to increase women's incomes, narrow the wage gap, and reduce income inequality. And the White House Council on Women and Girls is actively working to close the wage gap.

More needs to be done. I appreciate the House acting on the Paycheck Fairness Act early last year, and I renew my call to the Senate to modernize and strengthen the Equal Pay Act by closing loopholes, providing incentives for compliance, and barring certain types of retaliation against workers by employers. On this anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, let us all renew and redouble our efforts.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Arizona Law an Attack on ALL Women

In addition to the obvious racist and xenophobic implications of the new Arizona immigration law, in addition to the obvious concerns that this unlawful law targets residents based on the hue of their skin and the language on their lips, there is something else that troubles us. SB 1070 is an attack on women – especially mothers, and those who find themselves in situations of domestic violence, sexual assault or workplace discrimination.

What was Governor Jan Brewer thinking when she stood for all the world to see and signed this wrong-headed legislation into law? There is so much in SB 1070 that compels activists to speak out against it.

Targeting drivers for potential deportation means mothers are taken away from their children, splitting up families in pursuit of enforcement of a broken immigration system. A mother dropping her child off at school or child care in the morning doesn’t know if she’ll be there to pick her up in the afternoon.

And SB 1070 actually increases the threat to women facing domestic violence or sexual assault. Why would a woman call the police to report a crime, why would she ask the police to come to her home, when the first thing they’re going to do is demand her citizenship documentation or that of her family members? This law is a boon for those who would threaten and abuse wives, girlfriends, partners and other women.

It’s also a boon for unscrupulous employers who violate wage and discrimination laws or permit sexual harassment in the workplace. These laws apply to all workers, with and without documents. If you work, under law, you must get paid and you must not be discriminated against or illegally harassed. But SB 1070 silences women from speaking out, from reporting crimes and violations of workplace rights.

By silencing women, SB 1070 permits and condones these attacks. It’s especially bad for the women who face them as individuals, but it’s also bad for ALL women.

What women need are policies that ensure they can provide for their families, policies like paid sick days laws that protect jobs and income even if you face unthinkable situations like domestic violence and sexual assault.

What women need are policies that do not place them as targets of unscrupulous employers, but that help them fight illegal labor practices like pay discrimination and help to close the pay gap (which disproportionately affects Latinas and other women of color) so they can support their children now and support themselves in retirement.

We don’t need laws that criminalize women and make them more vulnerable to harm, but laws that help make ALL women and their families successful and more able to live out the American dream. Join us in speaking out against SB 1070 now!

Linda Meric is National Director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women

Monday, April 19, 2010

We All Deserve a World Where Women Receive Equal Pay

Today on April 20 -- a full four months into the year -- women across the country will observe the date on the calendar when our wages finally catch up with men’s wages from last year. That’s right; it takes women 16 months, on average, to earn what men make in only 12 months. For African American women and Latinas it takes even longer because the pay gap is even wider.

It’s shameful that the historic pay gap, rather than decreasing, is actually increasing. Women now earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. So women across the country are coming together for rallies, receptions, and “Un-Happy” Hours, wearing red to show that women’s paychecks are in the red.

But the pay gap isn't just a woman’s issue; it’s an issue for all working families.

According to the Center for American Progress women are the primary breadwinner or co-breadwinner in two-thirds of American families. The gap hurts everyone – spouses, children, aging parents, our extended families – because there is less money to help make ends meet; less money for groceries, rent, clothes, doctor’s visits, and to ensure that our families are self-sufficient.

But there’s something we can do about it.

We can all come together to build support for the Paycheck Fairness Act (S 182), federal legislation that passed the House last year. Now, the Senate is poised to take action and we must speak out.

The act would close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963, enhance remedies, prohibit retaliation against workers who share wage information, and provide the government with new tools to monitor and address pay inequities. Passage is critical -- particularly in these economically perilous times when the self-sufficiency of women and their families is so at risk.

This legislation must move NOW. There's no time like the present. Take a moment, right now, and contact your Senators today, urging them to support the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Women who work hard every day should be paid fairly. It's been nearly 47 years since the Equal Pay Act was signed. We can't wait another forty-seven to close this gap. Working women and their families -- all of us -- deserve better.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

And Now for Some Good News …

Paycheck Fairness Act gaining Momentum

With the economy continuing to lag, so many women out of work, with the continuing challenge of health care reform and the continuing fight to establish a basic labor standard of paid sick days, it’s time for some encouraging news., So here it is: There‘s finally movement on the Paycheck Fairness Act and it couldn’t come at a better time.

This week, women’s and civil rights activists across the country are celebrating the one year anniversary of President Barack Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act into law. The Ledbetter law gives workers a wider window to file claims of pay discrimination. It’s a critically important piece of legislation.

But on a conference call Tuesday with Senator Chris Dodd, Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Marcia Greenberger, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center, Lilly Ledbetter herself said: “The work is far from done.”

Another year has passed and pay discrimination persists.

The pay gap actually widened slightly between 2007 and 2008, from 77.8 (generally rounded to 78 percent) to 77 percent. For women of color, it was even wider. In 2008, the earnings for African American women were 67.9 percent of men's earnings (a drop from 68.7 percent in 2007), and Latinas' earnings were 58 percent of men's earnings (a drop from 59 percent in 2007). Take a look at “
The Wage Gap Over Time” table and you’ll see how little the gap has changed in this century.

While Ledbetter restored the law, Paycheck Fairness strengthens it and plugs loopholes. One of the most important components is that it will prohibit retaliation against workers who share information about their wages. If there had been wage transparency when Lilly Ledbetter was working at that Goodyear Tire plant in Gadsen, Alabama, she would have been able to find out that her male counterparts were earning more than she; that she received less pay simply because of her gender. But she didn’t find out for decades – not until someone slipped her an anonymous note.

Her fight has made the workplace more equitable for us all.

But, back to the good news: The House passed the Paycheck Fairness bill in July 2008. Now, the Senate is starting to act on it. Hearings are beginning. A bill should follow. And Sen. Dodd said he would seek time to discuss it on the Senate floor by spring.

Ah, spring. Fairness for women – and most important their families -- is in the air.