Equal Pay Day 2012
Yesterday, April 17 was “Equal Pay Day” a holiday introduced by the National Committee for Pay Equity in 1996, to raise awareness about the gender wage gap. It falls on the day when the earnings of women would equal the earnings of men in the year before—usually about 4 months into the new year.
The wage gap remained statistically unchanged in the last year. Women’s earnings were 77.4 percent of men’s in 2010, based on the median earnings of all full-time, year-round workers. In 2010, the earnings of African American women were67.7 percent of all men’s earnings and Latinas’ earnings were 58.7 percent of all men’s earnings The National Committee on Pay Equity’s The Wage Gap Over Time shows how little the wage gap has changed in this century. (See also the fact sheet from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research: The Gender Wage Gap: 2010.
And in other economic news for women:
An April 7 feature article in The New York Times reviewed results of Bill Clinton’s Welfare Reform Act of 1996, which promised to “end welfare as we know it.” Touted as a success when welfare rolls were drastically reduced after its passage, the the program built its reputation when times were good, but offered little help when, over the last 4 years, jobs disappeared.
The old program, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, dates from the New Deal; it did not have time limits and gave states the flexibility to get more federal funds as the rolls increased in economic downturns. In the new program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a lifetime grant of 5 years maximum was introduced, federal spending was capped and states were allowed to turn poor families away. The revamped law encourages states to withhold aid, especially when the economy turns bad.
“My take on it was the states would push people off and not let them back on, and that’s just what they did,” said Peter B. Edelman, a law professor at Georgetown University who resigned from the Clinton administration to protest the law. “It’s been even worse than I thought it would be.”
Arizona is one of 16 states that have cut their welfare caseloads further since the start of the recession — in its case, by half. It twice reduced benefit time limits, going from 5 years, down to two. It spent most of its federal welfare dollars on other programs, using permissive rules to plug state budget gaps. Nationally, only 30 percent of federal money allotted welfare money is spent on cash benefits.
People dropped from cash assistance were mostly single mothers. Recent studies have found that as many as one in every four low-income single mothers is jobless and without cash aid — roughly four million women and children. Many have had to resort to desperate or illegal ways to make ends meet.
Esmeralda Murillo, a 21-year-old mother of two, lost her welfare check, landed in a shelter and then returned to a boyfriend whose violent temper had driven her away.
To keep her lights on, Rosa Pena, 24, sold the groceries she bought with food stamps and then kept her children fed with school lunches and help from neighbors.
Even in the 1996 program’s early days, when jobs were plentiful, a subset of families were left with neither welfare nor work. Their numbers were growing before the recession and seem to have surged since then.
Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the top House Republican on budget issues, calls the current welfare program “an unprecedented success.” Mitt Romney, who leads the race for the Republican presidential nomination, has said he would place similar restrictions on “all these federal programs.”
Governor Scott Walker Repeals Wisconsin Equal Pay Act
On April 5, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill to repeal his state’s Equal Pay Act. From now on women and members of other discriminated-against groups in Wisconsin filing pay discrimination suits will have to file in federal court, which opponents argue is more costly and time consuming and will deter people from filing. Wisconsin’s state law had also allowed plaintiffs to seek punitive damages for discrimination–which is not an option in a federal complaint.
Republican State Sen. Glenn Grothman, who authored the repeal bill gave as his reason that there is really no wage gap between men and women, and that if a woman makes less money than a man it is because she has “different values.” He also has said “You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women overall make only 72 cents on what men make for similar work.
In the 2 years that Wisconsin passed its Equal Pay Act, there was less discrimination and Wisconsin went from a rating of 36th in gender discrimination in 2009, to 24th in 2010.
Former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk, said that the Governor had “turned back the clock for women across Wisconsin.” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s campaign said Walker’s “ideological civil war includes a war on women, and repeal today of this protection against pay discrimination is a major step backwards for Wisconsin values and basic fairness.”
Life begins at menstruation in Arizona
In possibly the most draconian and absurd anti-abortion tights bill so far, on Apr. 12, Arizona Governor Jan-Brewer-has signed a life-begins-at-menstruation-bill.
The bill sets the gestational age as beginning on the first day of a woman’s last period, rather than at fertilization. In practice, this means that a virgin can get pregnant. Though it continues to bar abortions after 20 weeks, because of the new calculation it cuts the time limit for abortions to 18 weeks. The law “disregards women’s health in a way I’ve never seen before,” said Center for Reproductive Rights’ state advocacy counsel, Jordan Goldberg.
The fingerprints of “Americans United for Life” (a powerful anti-abortion rights group) are all over … the bill’s language, according to Elizabeth Nash of the Guttmacher Institute. She predicts that still other conservative states looking to restrict and discourage abortions will now look to Arizona’s bill as model legislation.
Other provisions of the bill include:
- “Medication abortions” (by pill), usually done at home or a clinic within the first nine weeks of pregnancy, must now be done by a medical provider who has hospital privileges within 30 miles of where the procedure takes place. This is an attempt to shut down medication abortions altogether. North Dakota and Oklahoma are in litigation over similar provisions in their laws.
- Sex education is not mandated in Arizona, but any such education must now prioritize birth and adoption.
- Health-care facilities must put up signs warning against abortion “coercion.”
- The state health department must set up a website focusing on alternatives to abortion and displaying photos of fetuses.
- “Counseling” is required for women aiming seeking abortions because of fetal abnormalities. Such counseling must include perinatal hospice information.
- Previous requirements for notarized parental consent forms for minors and a mandatory ultrasound screening 24 hours before having an abortion are reiterated)
The life-begins-at-menstruation law goes into effect in 90 days.
Title lX Upheld
Title IX, passed in 1972, is federal legislation that requires any school receiving federal money to allow both boys and girls to participate in any educational program or activity. Equal opportunity for sports training has been its centerpiece.
Because of it, young women today get training in sports, starting in public school starting in public school — and get to experience the health benefits, strength-building and teamwork that were not widely available to girls in previous eras: it is widely credited providing the groundwork for the rise of women’s basketball. But Title lX has undergone many legal challenges from the right.
Last week, the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed one such case that was brought by the American Sports Council (ASC), which argued that Title 1X was restricting opportunities for boys‘ sports teams and that its “three-part test” amounted to a quota. It also argued Title 9 was only intended for colleges and not should be implemented in K through 12, as it is, presently.
The “three-part test” — a list of requirements that schools must meet for federal funding, includes ensuring female athletic participation is in proportion to total female enrollment and demonstrating a history of expanding athletic opportunities for females.
The Department of Education argued that Title IX does not cut opportunities; it only requires that school athletic programs do not discriminate based on gender. The court dismissed the case because the ASC could not demonstrate how the test caused the loss of boys’ sports programs.
The battle over this case has been going on since the Bush Administration, when in 2007 the ASC made the same arguments that were then thrown out in 2008. The case just decided, was an appeal of that decision.
According to the National Women’s Law Center, male participation in sports is increasing while girls often still lack the resources and opportunities to play, even after 35 years of the implementation of Title lX.
Saudi Arabia reverses on women in sports
On March 22, Saudi Arabia anounced that it would send women to participate in the 2012 London Olympics for the first time — sparking cautious optimism on the part of Human Rights and feminist groups that this could be a step in the eventual dismantling of the pervasive discrimination and human rights abuses in that country. But hopes were dashed, when on April 4, the Saudi Sports Minister and head of the Saudi National Olympic Committee Prince Nawwaf al-Faisal confirmed that it would not, after all, support women in practicing sports, saying: “Female sports activity has not existed [in the kingdom] and there is no move thereto in this regard.”
According to Human Rights Watch, women in Saudi Arabia have virtually no rights to function as autonomous human beings. They live under a system of male guardianship so severe that they are required to obtain permission of, and often to be accompanied by, a male guardian — a father, husband or even minor son, in order to perform even the simplest social actions, such as registering for a class, accepting a job promotion or taking a sick child to a hospital.
Women also face legally mandated segregation in all public places, including the work place, schools, and universities. Women are excluded from 153 sports clubs regulated by the Saudi National Olympic Committee (NOC), and the 29 national sporting federations. Ending discrimination in sports has the potential to widen cracks in the guardianship system and other discriminatory practices, Human Rights Watch said.
The rights of women and girls to physical education and to participate in sport is internationally recognized in treaties Saudi Arabia has signed, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. And although the charter of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) prohibits discrimination against women in sport, the IOC has not demanded that Saudi Arabia allow women to practice sports as a condition for the kingdom’s participation in the Olympic Games.
Saudi Arabia has long been a staunch ally of, and supplier of oil to, the United States. Although presidents and secretaries of state have made public statements regarding oppression of women in places such as Afghanistan, there has been virtually no official pressure from the U.S. toward Saudi Arabia to cease its extreme violations of the rights of more than half of its population.