Reminder: Make Your Advocacy Day Appointments!

Reminder: Make Your Advocacy Day Appointments!

Advocacy Day, March 31st, is approaching fast! This integral part of the NAPE & Women Work! 2009 Professional Development Institute is an opportunity for advocates from all over the country to learn about current policy issues and educate their representatives in Congress about their work and the challenges they face.

Attendees should be setting up meetings with their Senators and Representative for between 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on March 31st. Use the Advocacy Day Prep Kit for help in identifying your legislators and contacting their offices. Once you have set up your meeting or meetings, don’t forget to add them to the Master Schedule, so we can track out joint impact.

If you haven’t registered for the 2009 Professional Development Institute, Partners on the Path to Equity (March 29th – April 1st in Washington, D.C.), you can do so here.

Paycheck Fairness Act Gaining Cosponsors in Senate

Now that the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act has been signed into law, the Paycheck Fairness Act is next on the agenda for fair pay advocates. Unlike the Ledbetter Act, which only provided a simple “fix” for a bad Supreme Court decision, the Paycheck Fairness Act is a multi-pronged attack on the gender wage gap, which was 22 cents in 2007. (That is, for every dollar men earned working full-time and year-round, women earned 78 cents. The gap is even worse for women of color. Check out Women Work!’s fact sheet here.)

The Paycheck Fairness Act passed in the House at the same time as Ledbetter did, but the Senate will be a tougher battle. However, the number of cosponsors (Senators who pledge to support the bill) is growing, and advocates are working on the national and state levels to educate their Senators about the bill’s importance.

You can help by signing your organization on to a joint letter to the Senate drafted by the National Women’s Law Center.

While Congress Attempts to Finish FY 2009 Appropriations, Obama Releases Blueprint for FY 2010 Budget

The Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 appropriations process, which ideally should have been finished last September, continues to be a thorn in the side of Congress. Despite having a majority in both houses, Democrats are having trouble passing the final omnibus appropriations bill. Last fall, Congress passed a continuing resolution to extend the FY 2008 budget to cover the first part of this year. Democratic leadership on the Appropriations Committees, who could not agree with former President Bush’s spending proposal, decided to wait for a new Administration to finish their work.

If Congress fails to come to an agreement now, the continuing resolution may be extended for the rest of the 2009 fiscal year. This would mean is that 2008 levels of funding for federal education and job training programs — too low for many who work with unemployed and underemployed women — would be extended until the start of FY 2010 in October.

Even as Congress deliberates on FY 09 spending, President Obama has released his initial budget plan for FY 2010 (which lasts from October 2009 to September 2010), kicking off that year’s budget process. While this is only a broad blueprint, it provides information about the Administration’s spending priorities (details will be available in April). At this point, the President’s priorities seem to include access to higher education (including increasing the maximum Pell Grant and a new initiative to help low-income students complete college), enforcement of labor standards, and training workers for jobs in emerging industries, including green industries. You can read more on the White House website.

Women Work! will keep you updated as more details are released. For a primer on the annual budget and appropriations process, see Section 7 of the Women Work! Advocacy Toolkit.

Family-Friendly Policies Take Center Stage at House Hearing

As the national financial crisis continues to threaten the economic security of many American families, policymakers in Washington have been actively seeking innovative approaches to minimize its impact on working families and small businesses. Now more than ever, family-friendly workplace policies are being touted by Congressional leaders as beneficial to both employees and employers. These policies include flexible working arrangements, paid sick leave, and expansion of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Earlier this month, Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) introduced the Working Families Flexibility Act, which seeks to simultaneously help working parents balance the responsibilities of work and family and support businesses by reducing worker turnover. Rep. Maloney’s bill would stipulate that workers can petition their employers for modifications to their schedule or location of work and be protected from retaliation.

With Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.), Rep. Maloney has also reintroduced the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act, which would give all federal employees four weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child, setting a national standard.

In a recent hearing of the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, Chairwoman Lynn Woolsey (D-Cal.) stressed the need for family-friendly policies, especially during times of economic downturn, when workers are worried about losing their jobs. Heather Boushey of the Center for American Progress testified that because job creation rates are low, protected family leave is crucial to maintaining job security. When businesses are suffering from economic woes, the option of flex-time lets employers cut workers’ schedules rather than laying them off. Eileen Applebaum, Director of the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers University, further pointed out that family-friendly policies such as paid sick leave and family leave insurance actually create net savings for businesses because they reduce rates of worker turnover.

Chairwoman Woolsey also made clear that her priority is expanding the FMLA, which provides twelve weeks of unpaid leave for emergency family care but currently only covers workers at companies with over 50 employees — only half of the American workforce.