White House ’08: Moms want some attention from the candidates
Story by Chris Graham
Tonight’s vice-presidential debate has the attention of voters on the nomination of Sarah Palin on the Republican Party national ticket. A coalition of women’s groups hopes the spotlight on a prominent political woman will bring some needed attention to the plight of working women who feel passed by in the policymaking sphere.
“Now more than ever we need policymakers and importantly candidates to focus on families who don’t work on Wall Street. Families need help, and soon. They need help on health-care reform, fair pay, paid sick days, and paid family medical leave, as well as afterschool programs, early-learning opportunities and more,” said Kristin Rowe-Finkbreiner, the executive director of MomsRising, a 150,000-member grassroots women’s organization that has organized a drive to get its members and women across the country to send a letter asking Palin to take the lead in bringing attention to women’s issues.
More than 22,000 women have sent the MomsRising letter to Palin asking about her stand on workplace issues, health care, education and related family-friendly issues in the past month, according to MomsRising.
“At this moment, when this nation is in the midst of a huge economic transition, we’re hearing a very clear message. Americans want workplace policies that are in sync with the realities of their lives,” said Debra Ness, the president of the National Partnership for Women and Families.
The agenda of the coalition that includes MomsRising and the National Partnership for Women and Families and the Multi-State Working Families Consortium features among other things the extension of the Family Medical Leave Act to cover more workers and give working mothers the opportunity to use sick days to care for sick children. “Our nation is long overdue to put in place policies that recognize that workers get sick, that they have kids who get sick, policies that accommodate workers when they have babies, or a spouse or a parent who needs care,” Ness said. “Millions of workers in the United States do not have even a single paid sick day, and the situation is even worse for low-income workers. Our failure to adopt family-friendly policies has real consequences for families’ abilities to make ends meet,” Ness said.
“The truth is that despite all the hype about family values, our workplace policies don’t value families,” said Ellen Bravo, the coordinator of the Multi-State Working Families Consortium. “Every day, workers risk their jobs to care for their loved ones, or put their loved ones at risk so they can keep their jobs. Women in particular regularly face the choice between the job they need and the family they love. The numbers are staggering, and you probably know them. Some employers do a great job, but nearly half the private sector aren’t covered by the Family Medical Leave Act. Close to 3 million who are can’t afford to take it. And FMLA doesn’t cover routine illness,” Bravo said.
Twenty-one million working women have no paid sick days, Bravo said, and 7 in 10 who do can’t use them to care for a sick child.
“For us, this is the missing piece in the economic-security puzzle,” Bravo said.