See all: 21st century workplace policies|abortion|access to health care|Cover Maine Now|Discrimination|economic security|education|Equal Pay|Events|Fair Pay|Fair Workplace Policies|Family Medical Leave|Medicaid|meeting basic needs|Minimum Wage|Pathways out of Poverty|Pregnant Women|Reproductive Health28 Oct 2015
We wanted to give you an overview of some of the solutions that came out of our first Maine Women’s Summit on Economic Security that we shared in Building a Prosperous Maine: A Roadmap to Economic Security for Women and Our Families.
We approached the first Summit and our Roadmap with a vision for a future where economic security is a reality for all women—and ultimately all Maine people. I’m going to share that vision with you now.
We are working for a future where all of us can meet our basic needs. Where everyone has enough to eat and a place to live. But basic needs are than that—everyone needs to be able to purchase things for their personal hygiene. We need our children to have supplies for school. We need to be able to purchase medicines and other necessities for our health. In a rural state like Maine, we need to be able to put gas in our cars to get to work or the store or the doctor’s office. And as the temperature drops, we need to be able to heat our homes.
We can help make this happen by increasing the minimum wage for all workers—including those who earn tips. We can strengthen and make sure more people who are eligible use the Earned Income Tax Credit. We can do far more to fund and implement housing programs. And we can stop shaming and blaming people living in poverty, and instead strengthen our safety net programs like General Assistance and food assistance—making sure they are easy to use and that they get used by everyone who needs them whether they have just made Maine their home or have lived here all their lives. It’s simply the right thing to do.
We are working for a future where everyone can have a strong start and continue their education as adults. We know that critical brain development happens in the first five years. It’s important that we make sure everyone has access to quality, affordable early childhood programs.
And we need to make it easier and more affordable for adults to return to school, build skills, or go to college.
We are working for a future where our workplace policies reflect the realities of our lives in the 21st century. A future where workplaces provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers so they don’t have to choose between a paycheck and a healthy pregnancy.
We need to close the wage gap for all women—and that gap is particularly stark for black, Latina, and Native women. This gap not only reduces our spending power each year; it adds up to a less financially secure retirement across our careers.
We need to make sure we all have access to paid leave to recover from surgery, take care of a new baby, or help a loved one. This shouldn’t just be a benefit for employees who are luck enough to work for corporations that choose to provide it. By creating a state or federal paid leave fund, all employees could have access to this leave when they need it.
And we must make sure every working person can earn paid sick days to care for themselves or a sick child. Not only will this help working people and our families, it will help businesses reduce turnover & absenteeism, it helps reduce the spread of illness in schools because more children will be able to stay home to get well, and it will improve the health of all our communities by reducing the spread of illness.
We are working for a future where everyone has access to a full range of health care. That means making sure we all have access to health care coverage—it’s long, long past time to cover Maine now.
And we can’t look the other way when our laws discriminate against people. For example, far too many transgender women and men are denied health care because are laws are discriminatory.
We need to make sure health care includes access to preventative care, screenings, dental care, eye care, and reproductive care.
And we must make sure every single person who wants an abortion can get a safe, legal abortion. Instead of attacking Planned Parenthood and other women’s health care providers like Maine Family Planning and Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center, we need to repeal the Hyde Amendment and make Medicaid cover abortion care.
We know the solutions. A prosperous future for women and our families—and all Mainers—is totally possible. We just need the will to make it happen.
We have that will.
Join us as we turn these ideas into reality.
See all: Events27 Oct 2015
What a day this has been! We’ve heard from Caroline Fredrickson about the things that have yet to be done to close the gap on compromises made early on in passing anti-discrimination and labor laws that have left many women far behind on the road to financial stability. Then we discussed what is being done and what we can do in Maine – right here, and right now.
Pronita Gupta brought us into the Women’s Bureau of the US Department of Labor to look at challenges and opportunities for women in the workforce, and Garrett Martin highlighted with data and statistics the grim reality we see that underlines many of our concerns.
And, then we engaged in great dialog discussing the importance of the federal courts for the economic security of women and families; and got pointers on effective advocacy, and getting our message across. We heard stories from women which took the issues and problems from textbook to real life. Powerful.
Underlying all of these discussions is a need for action – engagement by every one of us to make sure we move forward and close the gaps that we have identified – gaps that remain to jeopardize the foundation of what has been changed.
Two years ago, the Maine Women’s Policy Center held the 1st Maine Women’s Summit on Economic Security. From those discussions, the Policy Center released its workbook, Building a Prosperous Maine: A Roadmap to Economic Security for Women and Their Families in August 2014. You’ve heard from Kathy Kilrain-Del’Rio about that work. The release showed that there are many common-sense strategies that we can implement as a state and nation to ensure all women and our families can move toward greater prosperity.
Since then, we’ve spent the past two years talking with women, with our elected officials, with organizational partners, and with the media about moving our workplace policies into the 21st century, making sure that all Mainers can put food on the table and have a roof over their heads, and ensure better access to the full range of health care services women need.
And today, here we are – pulling it together to get commitment from us all for action — to move from discussion to change. Because, as Eliza Townsend, Executive Director of the Policy Center and the Maine Women’s Lobby says, “Ideas are only as valuable as the actions that follow.”
The Maine Women’s Policy Center, your host for this Summit, has worked to improve the social, political and economic status of women and girls in Maine since 1990. Following the advances made in the 70s and 80s, the Policy Center, for 25 years, has conducted the research to identify the issues that women face and the policy solutions that can make life better for them and their families focusing on four areas: freedom from violence, freedom from discrimination, access to health care, and economic security. And, we know that it is economic security that is the overarching issue that affects all others.
The Policy Center’s sister organization and the action arm of the two, the Maine Women’s Lobby was founded even earlier – in 1978 — thirty seven years ago when a group of women who had previously been involved in successful ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in Maine, and had just returned from the International Women’s Year conference in Mexico worked together again to get a bill passed that would provide modest funding for a shelter in a domestic violence program. The group did research, testified, and lobbied. The bill passed with bi-partisan support and went to the Appropriations table. As most of you know, bills that carry fiscal notes are the last decided – and often in the middle of the night.
When we left the Legislature on the final day, feeling no concern since there had been such strong bi-partisan support and assurance of passage, we were dismayed to find when it was all over that funding had not been provided, and the bill was dead. There was no shelter.
Madeleine Kunin, former governor of Vermont, addressed the 1st Maine Women’s Economic Summit two years ago. She said “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” There was no one at the table that night during deliberations by the Appropriations Committee – and we were indeed on the table.
We vowed, following that vote, that we would never again be in the position of not being at the table. Laws and policies and programs affecting women and girls were too important to leave to chance. I was part of that small group of women who had decided there needed to be a presence at the State House – a presence that would advocate and lobby on behalf of issues that concerned Maine women and girls. And so the Maine Women’s Lobby became an organization set up to address issues involving Maine women and girls, to ensure a presence at the State House and a place at the table.
1978, when the Lobby was founded, was a long time ago – for some of you 1978 was before you were born. And, you may have grown up expecting the advocacy and the presence in the State House by lobbyists and organizations advocating for the rights of women.
But it wasn’t always that way.
We’ve come a long way in those years – but, as you’ve heard today, not all of us share in the advances that have been made.
In the early days, the 70s and 80s, there was press coverage for almost everything that was proposed, or debated, or decided that had to do with sex discrimination. In Maine we started in 1972 by prohibiting sex discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. Unlike the federal law, we included everyone – there were no exemptions for small employers. I’m proud of that, and you should be too.
The Maine Human Rights Commission was in the spotlight in those days (well….these days too), and every decision seemed a “breakthrough”. We had gone from a society in which inequality had been the norm, and not prohibited, to one in which equality was ensured – but needed to be fought for.
And so, we began the litany of litigation so that women could be police officers, and fire fighters, and prison guards, and later lawyers, senior managers, and division heads.
In the earlier days, we worked on equal pay for equal work and eliminated protections in labor laws that held women back, or down, prohibiting us from working overtime, and restricting us from certain jobs. But women still make only 67 cents for every dollar men make.
We changed the laws so that women who are pregnant can’t be fired from their jobs simply for being pregnant, answering the U.S. Supreme Court decision that treating pregnant women differently than men was not sex discrimination. But we haven’t provided for paid family leave, which we know impacts women to a significant degree.
We worked to provided funding and support for domestic violence programs, and changed the focus of the discussion from only viewing women as victims to shining a light on perpetrators of this terrible epidemic.
Still, Maine has such a high rate of deaths of women attributed to domestic violence.
We addressed sexual harassment, and made it clear that requests, demands, and expectations of sexual favors in return for
employment are not acceptable, and a violation of employment laws. That is one area that significant, lasting change has been made in, due in large part to the Lobby’s initiation of the law in the early 90s requiring mandatory employer training on a yearly basis for all employees.
We’ve advanced reproductive rights, and worked mightily to keep those advances and options from eroding. You know the challenges we face in this area.
We have done a lot, but we have not done enough, and we are not done. Is it harder now to feel the impact of change than it was 30 or 40 years ago? Perhaps. The changes are not in the spotlight, but they are even more significant as we know.
And, the issues remain – some of them the same as they were those decades ago, some evolving from the early issues, and some new ones. We need to make sure that the advances we have made do not disappear, and continue to move forward to effectuate changes in areas we’ve discussed today.
The advances we’ve made didn’t just happen – they happened because people cared to get involved. Every person in this room makes a difference. YOU can make a difference.
And it’s you that we need now – we need you to move forward with your voices, and your participation to turn the discussions into action.
I’m ready for the challenge – I hope you are too!
Standing together with women, organizations, and policy-makers to make the world a better place is what the Maine Women’s Lobby has been doing for more than 35 years. That’s why we were so excited hear Caroline Fredrickson say these words during the Maine Women’s Summit on Economic Security last week. What an inspiring day! More than 200 people from across the state came together to focus on a more prosperous future for women and our families.
We wanted to take this opportunity to share some images from the day, links to some of the remarks and news, and a few upcoming opportunities to engage on the issues.
We’ll be sharing audio from Caroline Fredrickson’s Keynote Address soon. For now you can read opening remarks by Eliza Townsend and a Welcome from Gillian Schair:
Opening Remarks by Eliza Townsend, Executive Director
Welcome Letter from Gillian Schair, Board Chair
And these pieces from the news:
MPBN interview with Caroline Fredrickson: Poor Women Being Left Out of Conversation on Workplace Culture
Bangor Daily News Op-ed: A state where women, children can’t meet basic needs has the wrong priorities
Kennebec Journal article: Activists gather in Augusta for Maine Women’s Summit on Economic Security
And this collection of some of the social media from the day: Maine Women’s Summit On Economic Security Tweets
At the Summit, we also shared some upcoming opportunities to engage on some of the issues related to women’s economic security. To learn more or RSVP to any of these events, contact Molly at 207.622.0851 x2 or email@example.com.
Webinar: Making Sure All Mainers Have Access to a Full Range of Health Care
December 2, 2015 at Noon
Contact Kathy at 207.622.0851 x3 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Webinar: Expanding Access to Paid Family Leave & Earned Paid Sick Days
December 10, 2015 at 7:00 PM
Contact Kathy at 207.622.0851 x3 or email@example.com.
Day of Action: Maine Women’s Day at the State House
Each year, women from across the state come together at the start of the legislative session to learn more about the policy decisions our elected leaders will be considering, to shine a light on issues that are important for Maine women and our families, and to explore ways that we can be stronger advocates for our legislative priorities.
Thursday, January 21st; Maine State House, Augusta
We’ll be sharing additional events soon.
We’re so happy about the success of the Maine Women’s Summit on Economic Security. It was terrific to spend an entire day with passionate people focused on turning key policy ideas into action—as well as see old friends and meet new ones. The reality is that for this critical work to continue, we need all the help we can get: volunteers, activists, and financial support. If you would like to talk more about volunteering or taking action, please call or email Kathy at 207.622.0851 x3 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To provide financial support, you can give online at bit.ly/MWLdonate, or send a check to the Maine Women’s Lobby at 124 Sewall St., Augusta, ME 04330.
Following are a few more photos from the day (even more can be found on Facebook)—stay tuned for more photos and highlights soon.
Thank you for everything!
Eliza, Molly, & Kathy
Those were the words we used in planning the first ever Maine Women’s Summit on Economic Security two years ago. That autumn day we shined a light on the policies that could help all Maine women and their families meet their basic needs, get a strong education, and have access to a full range of health care services, while also bringing our workplace policies into the twenty-first century. There was much to learn and consider.
Out of that energizing day, we put together Building a Prosperous Maine: A Roadmap to Economic Security for Women and Their Families, which you have in your packets today. We shared that book with candidates for state and federal offices as well as with media, organizations, and activists. In our roadmap, we marked a clear path for policy-makers to help strengthen women’s financial stability across their lives:
There are many other policies that complement those presented, and these will get us a long way down the road to a more vital economic future for Maine.
Now it is time to act. And action is urgently needed.
Women working full time in our state lose a combined total of nearly two billion dollars every year due to the wage gap. That’s lost income that affects our security in retirement and reduces what we can spend on our basic needs like food, housing, medicine, and gas. Nearly 200,000 private sector workers in Maine, or 42.3 percent of the workforce, cannot earn a single paid sick day to use to recover from common illnesses or seek medical care. Families with a single woman as the head of household are more likely to live in poverty in Maine compared to the nation as a whole. And in those families with children under five years old with a single mother, the poverty rate rises to an astounding 54.7%. The median poverty rate for those over 65 in Maine is 38.6%. And we recently learned that Maine is the only state in the nation that has not increased the number of people with health coverage since 2010. The people of Maine can’t wait any longer for our state to address these issues.
How can we make these ideas a reality? That is the question before us. We’ll hear from people across the state who are doing just that. We’ll have a chance to discover effective strategies and new tools to help us take action in our own lives.
Thank you for joining us as we turn great and important ideas into action. Our coming together today is the first step toward making change and we need you, your intelligence, your drive and your commitment to change the political landscape in Maine. This quote by Margaret Mead is often used and for good reason: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Together we can and will make a brighter future for Maine women and our families.
Thank you for joining us,
Chair, Board of Director
Maine Women’s Policy Center