The U.S. Once Had Universal Child Care, But Rebuilding It Won’t Be Easy

As reported by NPR, “in urging greatly expanded subsidies during his Tuesday [State of the Union] address, the president referenced a national child care program that was in place during World War II, when his grandmother and other American women were needed in the nation’s factories. The program is not widely known today, but if it seems hard to believe, you can see evidence for yourself on YouTube.”

These days, affordable, quality childcare in the U.S. is hard to find, and yet crucial to the participation of so many parents in the workforce. “This grainy newsreel from Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, Calif., shows smiling toddlers doing puzzles, painting and listening to a woman play music. All this plus lunch and snacks, for 50 cents a day, or about $7.25 adjusted for inflation… The Works Project Administration first ran the day cares. The idea was to employ teachers and to also watch kids so that their unemployed parents could look for jobs. When women replaced deployed soldiers in the domestic workforce during World War II, the government funded a major expansion.” Read more or listen to the original story from NPR here.

Federal Court Strikes Down Rule on Pay for Home-Health Workers

Late Wednesday afternoon, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., struck down a proposed change to the Fair Labor Standards Act that would have required private and state-managed home health care agencies to pay their employees overtime and minimum wage.

Home health attendants and aides, disproportionately African American, female wage earners—neither nurse nor maid, but a combination of both—have historically been singled out for denial of basic labor rights. The DOL issued a new rule in September of 2013, which would have finally included home-care workers under FLSA coverage. The overall rule was set to take effect on Jan. 1 of this year, but the portion struck down Wednesday was put on hold until Jan. 15 pending the court’s decision.

Maria Fernandez, Bernardo Vega

Home health aide Maria Fernandez, right, helps Bernardo Vega, 88, left, make the bed as she performs household chores for Vega and his wife. Fernandez works for United Home Care Services which provides health care and home care services for elderly and disabled adults. Photograph by Lynne Sladky — AP

 

“The affected workers—often known as personal-care aides, home-health aides or certified nursing assistants—typically bathe, dress and feed elderly or disabled patients. A large percentage of them are hired directly by people with disabilities or their families. Others are employed by private companies that provide services. Workers typically are paid with Medicaid funds administered by states.

“Many home-health workers already are paid more than the federal minimum wage—currently $7.25 an hour—but don’t get paid time-and-a-half when they work more than 40 hours a week. Many also have no health-care coverage themselves.”

Read more from Time, Fortune and the Wall Street Journal

Tipped subminimum wage leads to more sexual harassment

“Workers who rely on tips to make a living experience twice as much sexual harassment as those earning minimum wage. Laws that allow employers to pay tipped workers below the minimum wage lead to increased sexual harassment in the workplace, according to a new report, which shows that female restaurant workers who virtually live off tips are in a ‘uniquely vulnerable position.’

Help Wanted: Sexual Harassment and the Restaurant Industry

Help Wanted: Sexual Harassment and the Restaurant Industry 

Glass floor, a term coined by ROC (Restaurant Opportunities Commission), refers to a system that exacerbates the already poor job security of low-wage workers by layering on a sexualized atmosphere. If workers feel expendable at their workplace, they are more likely to ignore sexual harassment, the report said. Researchers found that tipped workers in states where subminimum wage is permissible are three times as likely to be told to wear sexier or more revealing clothing than those where such payment practices are barred. The United States is the only industrialized democracy that has a two-tiered minimum wage.” Read more here.  

N.J. woman with three jobs eulogized as face of low-wage worker

“A New Jersey woman died earlier this week trying to catch a few hours of sleep between jobs, a chilling reminder of the struggle low-wage workers, particularly women, face making ends meet. Fernandes worked at multiple Dunkin’ Donuts locations. Dunkin’ Donuts confirmed that the outlets where she worked were owned by different franchisees and that the different owners didn’t know she was working at multiple restaurants. Fernandes worked as little as 10 hours a week at one franchise and as many as 40 hours a week at another.” With a minimum wage of $8.25/hour in New Jersey, full time work at 40 hours a week would gross an employee $330. 

“It is a very sad story and really tragic, and it shines a light on what is a real problem, particularly for low-wage workers, today,” said Elizabeth Watson, senior counsel and director of workplace justice for women at the National Women’s Law Center.

working-poor

“Fernandes, 32, died while napping in a parking lot in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on Aug. 25. She was apparently overcome by fumes from a gas can she kept in her car to be sure she wouldn’t run out of fuel on her way to her part-time shifts at Dunkin’ Donuts stores in three different New Jersey towns.”

Read more about this story and why American women make up a large percentage of the U.S. low-wage and part-time workforce here or here

Treating pregnant workers right

“Thanks to the work of sponsor Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago), the Illinois House approved House Bill 8, the “Pregnant Workers Fairness Act,” which ensures that pregnant workers are not forced out of their jobs or denied reasonable job modifications to allow them to continue working. The legislation — which promotes the health and economic security of pregnant women, their babies and their families — is championed by Gov. Pat Quinn and now goes to the Illinois Senate.

“The number of pregnancy discrimination cases filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has increased by 71 percent since 1992, and 40 percent of full-time low-wage workers may not decide when to take breaks… Some employers accommodate employees who are hurt on the job or have physical disabilities, yet won’t make minor modifications in job descriptions or workplace conditions for a pregnant worker.”

Read more here at the Chicago Sun Times. 

Equal pay: 5 things you need to know

“Women are more likely to work part-time than men. They’re also more likely to work in low-wage service jobs, and have less work experience over time (often because they take time off to care for family). That said, the pay gap itself isn’t a myth. Even after you correct for all these differences, it still exists.”

Secretary is still the most common job for women in the U.S. Photo: Shutterstock

Secretary is still the most common job for women in the U.S. Photo: Shutterstock

As the White House leads another push on equal pay, read more here about the five points on the pay gap that you really need to know.

Today is Equal Pay Day

Tuesday, April 8, 2014. Equal Pay Day symbolizes how far into 2014 women must work to earn what men earned in 2013.

“Because women earn less on average than men, they must work longer for the same amount of pay. The wage gap is even greater for most women of color,” says the National Committee on Pay Equity.

The Pew Research Center Reports that “according to the White House, full-time working women earn 77% of what their male counterparts earn. This means that women have to work approximately 60 extra days, or about three months, to earn what men did by the end of the previous year.”

Read more about Equal Pay day here and here.

Closing the Wage Gap is Especially Important for Women of Color in Difficult Times

American women who work full time, year round are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. But the wage gap is even larger for many women of color working full time, year round, as African-American women are paid only 62 cents, and Hispanic women only 54 cents, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men. 

nwlc fact sheet graph

Read the full fact sheet by the National Women’s Law Center here