April 12, 2016 is Equal Pay Day, the day that symbolizes how far into this year a white woman needs to work to make the same amount as a white man did in 2015 due to the gender pay gap.

Nationally, women earn just 79 cents for every dollar earned by a white man. In Maine, white women earn 78.9% of what white men earn. It is important to note that for Black, Latina, and Native women, the gap is significantly greater and they must work much farther into this year to make the same as a white man did in 2015. Black women make just 63% of what white men make, Native women make only 59% of what white men make, and Latina women make just 54% of what white men make. That means an average Latina woman will need to work through October 2016—ten extra months—to earn what an average white man earned in 2015. Transgender women, immigrants, mothers, and women with disabilities all also face larger pay gaps.

The gender pay gap adds up to a significant loss in earnings across women’s lives—with a woman working full time losing more than $400,000 during her working years. This wage inequality exists across education levels and in nearly 98% of occupations.

In Maine, the gap adds up to an annual loss of income of $9,647 for women working full time. According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, Maine women who are employed full time lose an average combined total of nearly two billion dollars every year due to the wage gap. With nearly 55,000 Maine families headed by women—and 17,513 of those families struggling with poverty—closing the wage gap would do much to improve the financial stability of women and their families as well as boost the economy of our state.

There are clear policy solutions to end this disparity. In Maine, we can:

  • place our Equal Pay law under the Maine Human Rights Commission to ensure that wage discrimination is addressed through a process that is more supportive of employee needs;
  • expand access to paid leave like California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and New York have done through the creation of a state fund into which employees contribute; and
  • strengthen protections for pregnant workers by clarifying the law to explicitly state that employers must provide pregnant workers the same reasonable accommodations they routinely provide workers with temporary disabilities.

Federally, we can:

  • pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would prohibit retaliation against employees who make wage discrimination complaints and create a right to legal action for workers who have faced wage discrimination. It would also provide businesses with assistance in implementing equal pay policies and enhance investigation of wage discrimination claims;
  • adopt a national paid leave standard by passing the FAMILY Act. This would allow qualified workers to collect benefits equal to two-thirds of their monthly wages—subject to a cap—for up to twelve weeks of leave;
  • enact the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would make it illegal to refuse a reasonable accommodation for a worker’s pregnancy-related condition; and
  • build a strong system of quality childcare and early childhood programs that are affordable for low-income and middle-class families.

In 2016, most women need to work, but because women are the primary caregivers for their families—whether caring for children, aging parents, or other family members—women are disproportionately affected by outdated workplace policies that do not reflect the realities of families or the workforce in the 21st century.

If we close the wage gap, women will have more money to spend in our communities. The average Maine women would be able to:

  • buy 73 more weeks of food;
  • pay for seven more months of mortgage and utilities payments;
  • pay for more than twelve months of rent; or
  • buy more than 4,096 additional gallons of gas.

As our executive director Eliza Townsend reflected, “If we want to move Maine’s economy forward, we must ensure that women can meet their very real responsibilities both at work and at home. We know the solutions to do this and to close the gender wage gap. The Maine Women’s Lobby calls on our elected leaders to join us in working to pass policies that would create a more prosperous future for all Mainers.”



If you want to support our work to advance policies that will close the gender pay gap, please consider making a donation at bit.ly/MWLdonate. Be sure to subscribe to our Action Alert & E-News for opportunities to take action on the issues that matter to you.

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The Legislature is considering a bill to better protect the health and safety of Maine children in child care. LD 1689, An Act To Protect Children in the State from Possible Sexual, Physical and Emotional Abuse by Persons Who Have Been Convicted of Crimes, would require Maine to comply with the federal law and use fingerprints to conduct a background check for licensed child care providers.

Ask your legislators to support LD 1689

It is our responsibility to do everything in our power to provide Maine children a safe environment. Federal law requires all states to begin implementation of a comprehensive background check system that includes fingerprinting by September 30, 2017. The LePage administration is refusing to comply with this requirement—making Maine the onlystate that won’t be in compliance.

LD 1689 would ensure that Maine complies with this federal law. Under current licensing regulations, all staff and volunteers must have a background check, which includes a State Bureau of Investigation check and a State Child Protective check. These are important for protecting Maine kids, but they do not go far enough. The fingerprinting required by this bill would identify if someone has a criminal history from another state.

What would it say about us if we risked our youngest children’s well-being by knowingly, purposefully refusing to screen providers who will care for them? Maine should protect children from possible sexual, physical, and emotional abuse by someone who has been convicted of a crime in Maine or another state.

It’s important for our legislators to know that we want Maine to comply with this common-sense federal law. Ask them to support LD 1689 today: bit.ly/1Sh3jdJ.

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Action is needed to increase access to affordable health care coverage for all Maine people!

We expect the legislature to vote on LD 633, An Act To Improve the Health of Maine Citizens and the Economy of Maine by Providing Affordable Market-based Coverage Options to Low-income Uninsured Citizens, this week.

Please contact your legislators today and urge them to support LD 633. It’s long past time for Maine to accept the federal health care dollars that have been set aside for our state to provide health coverage to those who desperately need it.

LD 633 will save lives, save money, and create jobs. It’s a win for us all.

LD 633 draws from the experience of other states that are using federal health care funds to prevent and reduce chronic disease and combat drug addiction. Maine families with low incomes would have access to lifesaving health screenings and treatment, as well as the security of knowing they have quality health coverage to get care when they need it.

Accepting federal funds will protect rural hospitals and health clinics throughout Maine, improve access to preventive and life-saving health care, help our state address drug addiction, and create savings in our state budget.

Maine is falling behind the thirty-two states that have accepted federal health care funds to increase access to health coverage through Medicaid.

You can email your legislators today by going to bit.ly/HCaction

Find more information on how your county would benefit, including number of people who would gain coverage, jobs created, and other economic activity in the fact sheets found on the Cover Maine Now! coalition website.

Thank you for contacting your legislators to let them know that expanding access to health care matters to Maine people. 

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“It is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells us we should not exist.” –Laverne Cox

  • A hateful law that legalizes discrimination against LGBT people under the guise of ‘religious freedom’ became law in North Carolina while similar bills are being considered in more states.
  • One of our nation’s leading presidential candidates said that abortion should be banned even though he knows that would force women to seek illegal, unsafe abortions. He added that women who did seek an abortion under those circumstances should be punished.
  • Here in Maine, corporate lobbyists and most Republican lawmakers continue to oppose and try to weaken the citizen referendum to gradually raise the minimum wage to $12/hour by 2020 and gradually eliminate the subminimum tipped wage by 2024.

Those are just a few of the many attacks we saw in March on civil rights, personal autonomy, and people struggling to make ends meet. Sometimes it feels like the threats to our rights and well-being are never ending.

But when we get discouraged, you give us renewed hope and determination. Every day there are Maine people standing up for what is right. Every day Mainers have the courage to share their stories. Every day our members and neighbors stand up and speak out to make a better future. We’re highlighting some of those stories in this edition of our newsletter. And we’ll tell you about opportunities for you to take action as well as share more information about some of the current issues facing women here in Maine and across the nation.



This week the Maine Legislature passed LD 1477,An Act To Protect Victims of Sexual Assault. This bill would help reduce barriers for victims of sexual assault who wish to raise their child and have the parental rights of the person who raped them terminated. It’s now on the governor’s desk. Read this op-ed from the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault to learn more: A woman shouldn’t have to co-parent with the man who raped her.

Over the past five years, our state has seen a 50% increase in the number of children living in extreme poverty (the sharpest increase in the nation). Maine has the highest rate of food insecurity for children in New England, and we’re the third highest state in the country for very low food security. Approximately 40,000 Mainers have lost their MaineCare coverage and our state is the only one to see a statistically significant increase in the number of children without health insurance.

There is a bill being considered this session that would help reverse this dire course and provide real opportunity for Maine families struggling with poverty. LD 1268, An Act To Reform Welfare by Establishing Bridges to Sustainable Employment,would increase access to transitional jobs programs and the Parents as Scholars Program, provide housing vouchers to promote housing stability for families at risk of homelessness, and promote government accountability to ensure that programs are actually working to reduce poverty.

Legislators will soon be voting on a bill to increase access to oral health care. If passed, LD 1514 will align Maine’s dental hygiene therapy law with the new national accreditation standards, providing dentists the opportunity to have their practice reach underserved and un-served populations with Dental Hygiene Therapists providing routine care. This will make it easier for children, pregnant & postpartum women, and seniors to access needed oral health care. You can contact your legislators about this bill by clicking on http://bit.ly/1RKCmVY and entering your address.

Bills that would strengthen protections for victims of trafficking, improve the safety of childcare in our state, expand access to health care for nearly 70,000 Mainers, and ensure the safety of home births are still being considered by the legislature. As the legislative session nears its end, we’ll be sharing more opportunities for you to take action.



In the history of our country, the Senate has never refused to give a Supreme Court nominee a hearing. And the Senate has confirmed nominees of Presidents from an opposing party in an election year. For example, Justice Kennedy was nominated by President Reagan and confirmed by a Democratic Senate, in a presidential election year, by a vote of 97-0. There’s no excuse for GOP Senators on the Judiciary Committee to not hold a hearing for Judge Garland, President Obama’s nominee for the current vacancy.

That’s why we called on Senator Collins to ask her colleagues on the Judiciary Committee and in Senate Leadership to do the right thing and let the nomination process move forward. Many of you joined us by signing a petition sent to her earlier this month. If you didn’t get a chance to sign the petition, you can contact her office by calling 202-224-2523 to thank her for her public statements and ask her to talk to her colleagues to urge them to let the nomination process work.

GOP Senator: ‘No Basis’ For Republicans To Block Obama’s SCOTUS Nominee

Myths vs. Facts on Filling the Supreme Court Vacancy from the Alliance for Justice

Two cases heard by the Supreme Court in March illustrate why we need it to be at full strength.Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt will decide if a Texas TRAP law is constitutional. Anti-abortion TRAP laws force women’s health centers that provide reproductive health care to close through unnecessary and burdensome regulations. Zubik v. Burwell involves women’s access to birth control under the Affordable Care Act. If the court splits with a 4-to-4 decision in either case, crucial legal issues affecting large numbers of people will remain unresolved.

To learn more about these cases, check out these pieces:

Why I’m not shy about telling the Supreme Court about my abortion by Andrea Irwin, executive director of Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center and MWL board member

As Supreme Court considers Texas abortion case, protesters rally in Portland

The Women Take Over: In oral arguments for the Texas abortion case, the three female justices upend the Supreme Court’s balance of power.

Religion and Birth Control at the Supreme Court



It was an honor to receive a Community Pollinator award from the Southern Maine Workers’ Center at their Annual Meeting. The award recognized our work with SMWC on the new minimum wage ordinance in Portland. In case you missed it, Portland is the first city in the northeast to raise its minimum wage. Beginning on January 1, 2016, the minimum wage increased to $10.10/hour. It will increase to $10.68/hour in 2017, with future increases tied to inflation. You can read more about the SMWC event at bit.ly/1ZOZceQ.

On April 6th at the Alamo Theater in Bucksport, Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center will hold LUNAFEST, a traveling film festival of award-winning short films by, for and about women– filled with stories of reflection, hope, and humor. Get the details at bit.ly/25zvkY7.

Next week Hardy Girls Healthy Women will hold its annual Girls Rock! Weekend. It kicks off with the Girls Rock! Awards at Colby College on April 7th—an inspiring event that amplifies the voices of brave and amazing girls throughout our state. That’s followed by The Girls Rock! Conference, an event planned BY girls FOR girls. There are two opportunities to participate in the conference: in Waterville from 9 AM – 1PM on April 8th, and in Portland from 9 AM – 1PM on April 10th. Learn more about these great events and all HGHW does at www.hardygirlshealthywomen.org.

The Maine Women’s Fund 2016 Leadership Luncheon will be held on May 18th in Portland:http://www.mainewomensfund.org/leadership-luncheon/2016. If you’re there, be sure to stop by the Maine Women’s Policy Center table. We’re excited and grateful to again be an MWF grantee.



These news stories highlight some of the issues we’ve been working on:

Eliza Townsend, our executive director, spoke about the need for employees to be able to earn paid sick days in Workers grapple with lack of paid sick leave.

She also spoke about the challenges facing the ‘sandwich generation’ and how increased access to paid leave would help in Caring for children, aging parents puts squeeze on workers.

Kathy Kilrain del Rio, our director of program & development, joined Jennifer Thibodeau of Maine Family Planning to write Our leaders should respond to public health crises like Zika with facts, not fear.

The growing number of anti-abortion laws across the country have serious consequences for women. Read more in The Return of the D.I.Y. Abortion.

Today was the Transgender Day of Visibility and the first Trans Day at the Maine State House. There were several powerful speeches in the Hall of Flags and you can watch them on YouTube:Trans Day at the Maine State House (video credit: Andi Parkinson).

Katie Logue spoke about her concerns as the mom of a transgender boy. Her story highlights why ending discrimination against transgender people is also a reproductive justice issue. All parents should be able to raise their children without fear of violence or discrimination. Click here to read Katie’s remarks.

The Need for Paid Leave and Paid Sick Days:

Life in the Only Industrialized Country Without Paid Maternity Leave

Paid sick leave movement advancing

Maine Families Struggling to Move Out of Poverty:

Maine’s welfare policies have taken a turn, with dire consequences for kids

LePage’s grave disservice to Maine’s poorest

State must end shameful food stamp policies that worsen hunger problem

How Maine has quietly undermined help for its neediest

How Punitive Public Policies are Hurting Poor Families in Maine

Working to Raise Maine’s Minimum Wage:

Corporate lobbyists make major math error, have accidentally been arguing for $12 minimum wage

Take it from tipped workers, not their bosses: Increase the minimum wage



The Maine Women’s Lobby is in the halls of the statehouse advocating for policies that will improve the lives of Maine women and our families—and we’re standing against efforts to weaken the gains we’ve made together over the years. If you want to make sure there continues to be a strong voice for Maine women and girls when policy decisions are being made in Augusta and beyond, please consider making a monthly gift to support our mission.

When you make a monthly donation of $5, $10, $20 or more, you help sustain our work all year long. Donate online at bit.ly/MWLdonate or call us at 207-622-0851 x2.

You can also spread the word about our work by sharing this newsletter with your friends, and by connecting with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for your support!

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Last week, the Maine House took a vote on the minimum wage referendum. That referendum would gradually raise our minimum wage to $12 by 2020 – and would gradually end the subminimum tipped wage by 2024. Tens of thousands of Mainers worked hard to collect the signatures to put the referendum on the ballot this fall, but corporate lobbyists are attempting to undermine that effort by trying to put a competing, weaker proposal on the ballot through the legislature. Thankfully, the Maine House voted 78-69 to send the referendum straight to the ballot as it is.
There are going to be additional votes so it is important to thank those Representatives who voted with hard-working Mainers. And we need to let those who didn’t vote to send the referendum straight to the ballot know that we’re disappointed in them. Please take a few minutes now to send a message to your Representative about their vote.
Thank you for taking action on this issue that affects so many Maine women struggling to make ends meet.
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