Eliza Townsend, Executive Director of the Maine Women’s Lobby, issued the following statement in response to the Portland Finance Committee’s decision to weaken the mayor’s proposal to raise the city’s minimum wage:

We are extremely disappointed in the lack of leadership shown tonight by the members of the Portland Finance Committee who voted to amend and weaken the mayor’s proposed minimum wage increase. We are, however, grateful for the support expressed by Councilor Jon Hinck for the mayor’s proposal, which would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 in January 2016 and index the minimum wage to inflation after 2017. The mayor’s proposal should have been voted affirmatively out of committee and sent to the full council months ago. The amendments that weakened the proposal and passed the committee would seriously impact the economic security of working families.

The Finance Committee has failed the working people of Portland. We will continue to shine a spotlight on the need for a higher minimum wage and hope that the full council shows stronger leadership. The rest of the council still has a chance to ensure that Portland’s workers get the raise they so desperately need and deserve.  

For our communities and economy to prosper, all jobs need to pay at least enough to meet working families’ basic needs. When our neighbors can’t afford to buy food, pay for a place to live, or cover basic medical care, it hurts our whole city. When we raise the basic wage that workers can make, we boost our economy by saving on public assistance costs and making sure all workers have money to spend locally—this strengthens the economy for us all.

Over and over again, the committee heard from workers who are struggling to meet their basic needs as the costs for food, heat, and housing continue to grow. Portland is the economic engine of our state. Adopting the mayor’s proposal to raise the minimum wage from $7.50 to $9.50 in 2015, to $10.10 in 2016, and to $10.68 in 2017, then indexing the minimum wage to inflation going forward from 2017, and including a raise for tipped workers would not hurt the city. Instead it would help stimulate the local economy while also showing Portland’s low-wage workers that they are valued members of our community.

The weakening of the proposal is particularly troubling to those of us who are concerned with the economic security of Maine women. More than six in ten minimum wage workers in our state are women and more than 70% of tipped workers are women. We know that when women thrive, our communities thrive. A meaningful increase in the minimum wage for all workers is an important part of building pathways to prosperity for Portland’s families.

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The Maine Women’s Lobby advocates on behalf of Maine’s 678,000 women and girls, focusing on freedom from violence, freedom from discrimination, access to health care, and economic security.

http://www.mainewomen.org 

As we end Women’s History Month, we thought we’d share some words of inspiration that help fuel our work. This quote from Audre Lorde is one that often comes to mind: “When I dare to be powerful—to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” What words help inspire your advocacy? Send them to us at info@mainewomen.org or share them with us on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll post them over the next few weeks so everyone can be motivated by them, too.

 

Mark Your Calendar

There are several upcoming opportunities to learn more about why we’re working to pass a bill to help strengthen the Kid Safe Products Act: LD 948, sponsored by Rep. Sara Gideon with bipartisan support. There will be three screenings of the HBO documentary Toxic Hot Seat, which shows how chemical companies hide the risks to us all by misrepresenting chemical safety data and using their influence with legislators to keep policy reforms from passing. It also looks at the work our own state did in passing legislation that addressed the dangers of certain flame retardants. Each screening will be followed by a panel discussing how we can make a difference here in Maine. These screenings are free and open to everyone, but if you can let us know you are planning to attend by signing up here, it will help us know how many people to expect.

Toxic Hot Seat Screening in Farmington

Tuesday, April 7

6:00 – 8:00 PM, Doors Open at 5:30 PM

Farmington Public Library

117 Academy St., Farmington

 

Toxic Hot Seat Screening in Lewiston

Thursday, April 16

5:30 – 7:30 PM, Doors Open at 5:00 PM

The Patrick Dempsey Center

29 Lowell St., 5th Floor, Lewiston

 

Toxic Hot Seat Screening in Northport

Monday, April 27

6:30 – 8:30 PM, Doors Open at 6:15

Point Lookout

67 Atlantic Highway, Northport

RSVP at http://goo.gl/forms/64Pzu0sjS8

 

In Building a Prosperous Maine, we laid out a roadmap to economic security for women and our families. On October 16th, we’ll come together to turn those ideas into action. We hope you’ll be able to be part of this energizing day with like-minded opinion leaders from across the state as we hear from thought-provoking speakers, participate in interactive workshops, and take advantage of opportunities to build our skills.

Maine Women’s Summit on Economic Security

Friday, October 16

Augusta Civic Center

Here’s a peek at one of our speakers: Caroline Frederickson, author of the upcoming book Under the Bus: How Working Women Are Being Run Over:

  • Women make up 53% of low-wage workforce or “working poor,” defined as persons who spent at least twenty-seven weeks in the labor force but whose incomes fell below the official poverty level.
  • Women are 63% of minimum-wage workers.
  • Mid-wage jobs constitute 60% of jobs lost during the 2008 recession, but only a little more than 20% of those created during recovery.
  • By contrast, low-wage jobs were 21% of jobs lost during the recession but close to 60% of new jobs created since.
  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 11% of the workforce has paid leave.
  • Today the National Labor Relations Act still excludes domestic workers and farm laborers, and the Fair Labor Standards Act does not require overtime for farm workers or minimum wage or overtime for many domestic workers.

Caroline Fredrickson is the president of the American Constitution Society (ACS) and a senior fellow at Demos. She has been widely published on a range of legal and constitutional issues and is a frequent guest on television and radio shows. Before joining ACS, Fredrickson served as the director of the ACLU’s Washington legislative office and as general counsel and legal director of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

We’ll be sharing more details soon.

 

19th Annual Girls’ Day at the State House is a Success

“Thank you for teaching me how to become a leader. I really enjoyed today.” -Morgan, Mars Hill

Morgan’s words sum up so many of the comments we received from this year’s participants in Girls’ Day at the State House. 106 eighth grade girls from across the state—Fort Kent to North Berwick, Rangeley to Calais, and towns everywhere in between—came to Augusta to learn about how policies affect their lives and bills become laws while strengthening their leadership skills.

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Many thanks to our generous sponsors who helped make the day a success:

Foundations

Margaret E. Burnham Charitable Trust

Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust

Virginia Hodgkins Somers Foundation

Supporter

Maine Education Association

Contributor

Business and Professional Women of Maine

Law Offices of Joe Bornstein

Lee Auto Malls

Planned Parenthood of Northern New England

Friend

Karen Wagner McGrady

 

Updates from the Legislative Session

The legislative session is going strong and we’ve been busy testifying at public hearings, attending work sessions, and talking with lawmakers about a range of issues in all of our focus areas: freedom from violence, freedom from discrimination, access to health care, and economic security. We wrote about some of the bills we’re working on in both our January and February newsletters, which you can read on our blog at bit.ly/MWLnewsJ15 and bit.ly/MWLnewsF15. Over the next few months, there will be many ways that you can help—from talking with your legislators to writing letters to the editor in your local paper, and much more. To help make sure we know when to contact you to let you know about action you can take, please take a few minutes to complete this brief survey: bit.ly/MWLinterests.

Last week, we participated in a press conference announcing a new name and mission for the coalition that was previously known as the Maine Choice Coalition. The coalition has adopted a broader lens based on the reproductive justice movement, which emerged in the mid-nineties at a Black women’s caucus. (Learn more in this What is RJ primer from SisterSong.) The coalition’s new name is the Maine Alliance for Reproductive Freedom.

The Maine Alliance for Reproductive Freedom is a coalition of organizations and individuals working together to ensure that all Mainers have access to abortion and have the economic, social and political power and resources to make their own decisions about their bodies, sexuality, reproductive health, and families. The Coalition brings together members who are committed to reproductive health, reproductive rights, and reproductive justice with the purpose of coordinating and strategizing on legislative and legal advocacy, community organizing, and public education.

Some of the legislative priorities discussed at the press conference are described in these two news stories: 2 Reproductive Rights Bills Maine Should Turn Into Law—And One It Absolutely Shouldn’t, and Pro-choice activists worry new bills would restrict abortion access. This story from MPBN covers last week’s public hearing on LD 319, which would expand access to contraception and other reproductive health care while also saving taxpayer dollars: Abortion Opponents Object to Bill Aimed at Expanding Access to Reproductive Care.

 

Fighting for Higher Wages in Portland

Last fall, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan put forward a proposal to increase the city’s minimum wage from $7.50 to $9.50 in 2015, to $10.10 in 2016, and to $10.68 in 2017. It will also index the minimum wage to inflation going forward from 2017. Unfortunately, the Finance Committee has been very slow to take action on this proposal. Earlier this month, our executive director Eliza Townsend wrote an op-ed with Sailor Cartwright of the Southern Maine Workers Center urging the committee to stop delaying because too much time has already passed. Read Portland City Council committee should stop stalling and vote on minimum wage here: bit.ly/1CuvOzQ. Since then, the Portland Press Herald has also called for Portland to move forward on the proposal in this editorial: Portland should act on higher minimum wage at bit.ly/1bOIGbx.

We hope the Finance Committee will listen and positive action on the proposal soon. At that point we’ll be calling on the whole City Council to swiftly vote in support of the proposal because Portland’s working families shouldn’t have to wait longer for the raise they very much need and deserve. If you live in Portland, you can lend your voice to ours by contacting your city councilors and letting them know why you support the city being a leader by raising the minimum wage. You can find the councilors’ contact information at http://1.usa.gov/1EA1Yxo.

 

More Support for Family Friendly Workplace Policies

Tomorrow the White House will kick-off the Lead on Leave tour in Seattle. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett will be visiting states across the country to bring attention to the needs of workers who are struggling to balance their responsibilities both at home and at work. The Unites States is one of only two nations in the world (the other is Papua New Guinea) that does not ensure any family leave, and over 43 million Americans cannot earn even a single paid sick day. States and municipalities have begun to pass laws to address these issues, but ideally we need federal action. Read more about Lead on Leave in this New York Times blog post: The White House and Paid Leave: Let Flowers Bloom at http://nyti.ms/1G4qWpa, and this Washington Post piece: Perez, Jarrett to take paid-leave show on the road starting April 1 at http://wapo.st/1OWDdyt.  And these recent posts by Wendy Chun-Hoon and Ellen Bravo of Family Values @ Work explain more about the need for paid family leave and earned paid sick days: Closing the Equality Gap in the Workplace, and Don’t Wait for an Ebola Outbreak to Pass Paid Sick Days.

There was surprise support for paid sick days shown by the U.S. Senate last week when 16 Republican senators joined with the Democrats to pass Sen. Patty Murray’s budget amendment to establish a deficit-neutral reserve fund for legislation to allow Americans to earn paid sick time. Both Maine Senators Collins and King supported the amendment. You can read In surprise show of support, filibuster-proof Senate majority backs paid sick leave in the Washington Post, and Every Republican Running for President Votes Against Paid Sick Leave; It Passes Anyway at BloombergPolitics to learn more.

Even though the budget vote is non-binding, it is important to let our Senators know that we appreciate their vote in support of paid sick days. To thank Senator Collins and Senator King for voting to pass Sen. Murray’s budget amendment, call or email them this week.

Sen. Collins: 202-224-2523; Sen. King: 202-224-5344

 

Your Support Matters

Numerous policy decisions will be made this year at the local, state, and federal level that will affect our lives. It’s vital that the Maine Women’s Lobby be here to make sure the voice of Maine women is heard by our lawmakers when they are casting votes on those policies. That’s why we hope you’ll consider making a membership gift today.

When you make a gift of $35, $60, $100, or more, you help make sure we are in the halls of the statehouse and beyond when policy decisions are made. This year, your gift will help us engage women in communities across the state on the issues that matter most to their lives. You will help us educate and raise awareness with lawmakers and the media about women’s economic security, access to a full range of health care services, ending violence, and creating a future without discrimination.

Make your donation online at bit.ly/mwldonate.

 

Connect with Us

Make sure you never miss the latest news by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Is there a particular legislative issue that you want to be involved with? Make sure we know by completing our survey at bit.ly/MWLinterests or by contacting Molly at 207-622-0851 x2 or mbogart@mainewomen.org.

If you have any questions about the issues and events in this edition of News from the Maine Women’s Lobby, feel free to contact Kathy at 207-622-0851 x3 or kkilraindelrio@mainewomen.org. We love to hear from you!

We didn’t let the snow or cold slow us down this month because the legislative session was heating up and we had so much to do. With winter fully upon us, these words by Louisa May Alcott come to mind: “Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.” The sunshine may seem far away at times, but even in winter it shines. We’ll believe in a future where all women and girls can live our lives free from violence and discrimination, with access to a full range of health care, and real economic security. And with your help, that future won’t be too far away.


LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

As the 127th Legislative Session proceeds, more bills are being printed, public hearings are being held, and we’re having lots of conversations with legislators about issues that matter to Maine women and our families. Following are some of the issues we’re working on now. If you’d like to help us on these or other issues, let us know by completing the MWL Interest Form at bit.ly/MWLinterests.

The Budget

A major focus of this session is the governor’s proposed budget. The Appropriations Committee has been holding joint hearings with other committees as the committee members examine the many aspects of the budget. In the first week of March, we’ll be testifying on areas of the budget affecting immigrants and early childhood programs. You’ve probably read that the governor has been trying to cut programs that provide vital assistance to asylum seekers in Maine—programs like General Assistance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and SNAP (also known as food stamps). On Feb. 3rd, Gov. LePage further attacked immigrants when he made offensive and misleading remarks about immigrants in his State of the State address. Both thePortland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News wrote about the facts that show the data doesn’t support the governor’s remarks.

Maine’s immigrants are an important part of our state’s economic future. While we should be working to support new Mainers, the governor’s proposed budget would eliminate benefits for lawfully present immigrants and their families. Asylum seekers come to the U.S. because they are fleeing persecution and violence. They have to wait a minimum of six months and often much longer before they are legally allowed to work. Programs like GA, TANF, and SNAP provide support for housing, food, heat, and medicine for asylum seekers and their families. Denying these basic necessities goes against the values of Maine people.

It’s just common sense that investing in early childhood programs is investing in our future. The first five years of a child’s life are critical in shaping the architecture of the brain. Early childhood programs provide children with a foundation for academic success as well as long term social and emotional benefits. And home visiting programs support new parents in understanding their child’s developmental and physical needs. In addition to the benefits to Maine children, studies show that our state will see savings in remedial education, health, and corrections spending.  It’s imperative that we provide adequate funding for these programs in the budget.

Other Legislation

Last month we told you about some of the bills we will be focused on passing or defeating this year. If you missed our January News, you can read it on our blog here. This month we’re writing about some bills that will come up soon. On Thursday, the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence and the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault spoke at a press conference with legislators from both sides of the political aisle about a bill that would criminalize nonconsensual pornography, also known as revenge porn. An Act to Prohibit the Unauthorized Distribution of Certain Private Images sponsored by Rep. Fredette (R-Newport) with bipartisan support, would make it illegal to distribute explicit material if the identifiable people in the material haven’t consented to its distribution. Nationally, 93% of victims of revenge porn have suffered significant emotional distress, and 49% have been harassed or stalked online by those who had seen their material.

We’ll also be working on a variety of bills that affect women’s economic security. We’ll be supporting bills that would increase the minimum wage, protect workers from unfair scheduling practices, eliminate the tipped minimum wage, and much more. Are these issues that matter to you? Let us know by completing our online interest form:bit.ly/MWLinterests. And keep your eyes on your inbox because we’ll be asking for your help as these and many other bills move through the legislative process.


UPCOMING EVENTS

19th Annual Girls’ Day at the State House

Thursday, March 5th

This annual event brings together 100 eighth grade girls from across the state to Augusta to learn about women’s leadership and how policy decisions that affect our lives are made.

Hardy Girls Healthy Women Parenting Webinar Series

Wednesday, March 11th

We’ll discuss best practices, tools, tips, and techniques to help with activism for legislation, the media, and in your community. Learn more at http://hghw.org/parenting-webinar-series/.

 

Maine Alliance for Reproductive Freedom Lobby Day

Monday, March 30th

Join us at the Maine State House for a day focused on the reproductive justice issues we’re working on at the legislature this year.

Maine Women’s Summit on Economic Security

Friday, October 16th

Augusta Civic Center

Stay tuned for more details.


HAPPY ANNIVERSARY FMLA

This month we celebrated the 22nd Anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act, the law that provided American workers with up to 12 weeks unpaid leave. It was a landmark piece of legislation when President Clinton signed it into law, but as we heard President Obama say during his State of the Union address last month, America lags behind almost every country on the planet when it comes to offering paid maternity leave. We need to make sure that everyone has access to paid family & medical leave so that we can all meet our responsibilities both at home and at work. Whether it is taking care of a new child, a loved one with a serious medical problem, or recovering from an illness ourselves, most workers can’t afford to take leave under FMLA because we can’t afford to take unpaid leave. Read more about paid leave in Family Leave: A View from the Future from our national partners at Family Values @ Work.

And the same is true for the millions of workers—mostly those working in hands-on jobs like food service, retail, childcare, and elder care—who can’t earn even a single paid sick day. No one should have to choose between a paycheck and staying home to get well when they have the flu or need to care for a sick child. It’s not only good for workers and their families; it’s good for business, too. That’s why more and more cities and states across the country are passing legislation to expand access to earned paid sick days.

We’re part of the Family Values @ Work coalition because we know how important it is for all workers to have access to paid family & medical leave and paid sick days. There are two bills that have been proposed in Congress to make these issues a reality: The Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act and the Healthy Families Act (HFA). If you want to help work on these issues, go to bit.ly/MWLinterests to let us know.


COURTS MATTER

Next week, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell. This case will decide whether people can continue receiving premium tax credits for health coverage purchased through the federally-run health insurance Marketplaces. Women and our families have a lot at stake. Because we earn lower wages than men, suffer from higher rates of poverty, are less likely to be offered health insurance on the job, nearly seven million women—including 33,700 women in Maine—will no longer be able to afford health care if the court makes a negative decision in this case. That’s why the Maine Women’s Lobby signed onto an amicus brief in the King v. Burwell case.

According to the National Women’s Law Center:

  • An estimated 2.5 million low and middle-income women who hold health coverage through the federally-facilitated marketplaces in their states could lose eligibility for premium tax credits. On average, these tax credits cover three-quarters of their health insurance premiums.
  • Nearly 7 million women — including many who have not yet enrolled in coverage — could lose eligibility for tax credits, simply because they live in states that rely on the federal government to run their health insurance marketplace.
  • Approximately 3.5 million women — that is, half of all women who could lose tax credit eligibility —are women of color.

It’s frustrating to see the Affordable Care Act under yet another attack because it is working for Maine people. And it is important to note that while the Supreme Court is considering the King v. Burwell case, there is no risk to your tax credits. For more information about health care coverage in our state, check out Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care.


RAISING THE MINIMUM WAGE

We have talked a lot about the importance of raising the minimum wage as a key tool for increasing financial security for Maine women and our families. Just a few facts about who is affected:

  • In Maine, more than 6 in 10 minimum wage workers are women.
  • 85% of Maine workers who would be impacted by raising the minimum wage are over 20 years old.
  • More than 75% of women over the age of 16, and 62% of women over the age of 25 who earn the minimum wage do not have a spouse’s income to supplement their own.

That’s why last year we were happy to see that Portland was considering raising the city’s minimum wage. The Finance Committee will again consider the proposed wage increase in March. If you want to see a positive change for low-wage workers in Portland, we need your support. If you live in or own a business in Portland and would like to help, contact Kathy at 207-622-0851 x3 or kkilraindelrio@mainewomen.org.

President Obama spoke about the need for a higher minimum wage during his State of the Union address when he said, “If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, try it.  If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.” Here in Maine, in addition to Portland, Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci has proposed a minimum wage increase, and the Maine Legislature will be considering legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage. Visit bit.ly/MWLinterests to let us know about your interest in this and other economic security issues.

 


    

STAY CONNECTED

It’s impossible for us to share all our news in our monthly newsletter—so much is always happening. But you can get even more updates by following us on Facebook and Twitter. Is there a particular legislative issue that you want to be involved with? Make sure we know by completing our survey at bit.ly/MWLinterests or by contacting Molly at 207-622-0851 x2 or mbogart@mainewomen.org.

The only way we’re able to do so much in our four focus areas—freedom from violence, freedom from discrimination, access to health care, and economic security—is with the support of our members. When you make a membership gift of $35, $60, $100, or more, you help ensure that we are at the statehouse and beyond when decisions that affect the lives of Maine women and our families are being made. Make a donation today atbit.ly/mwldonate.

If you have any questions about the issues and events in this edition ofNews from the Maine Women’s Lobby, feel free to contact Kathy at 207-622-0851 x3 or kkilraindelrio@mainewomen.org. We love to hear from you!

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It’s hard to believe we are already through the first month of 2015. For us, this month was focused on the start of the 127th Legislative Session as well as making plans for the year. There’s a lot to share with you this month – and we’ll be sharing even more as the legislative session moves forward.

THE COALITION FOR MAINE WOMEN AND THE MAINE CHOICE COALITION ANNOUNCE THEIR LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES

On January 20th, more than 70 women came to Augusta to participate in Maine Women’s Day at the State House. Participants had an opportunity to connect with the Maine Women’s Lobby and a variety of organizations such as Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center,Maine Centers for Women, Work, and Community, ACLU of Maine, Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, AAUW Maine, Maine Family Planning, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, and Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights. They also had a chance to learn more about the legislative priorities for both coalitions during an Issues Briefing Session in the Welcome Center. And in the afternoon, three workshops gave participants a chance to delve more deeply into Working for Reproductive Justice, The ABC’s of Lobbying Your Legislators, and Effectively Communicating Your Message.

During a press conference in the Hall of Flags, the coalitions announced their legislative priorities, which include increasing access to women’s health care services, strengthening workplace protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, making sure Maine families have access to robust early childhood programs, and ending the shackling of pregnant inmates. Read more at Coalition for Maine Women & Maine Choice Coalition 2015 Legislative Priorities.

The coalitions also made clear that they will work to stop any attempts to undermine the gains women have seen over the years. As Ruth Lockhart, Executive Director of Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center, stated during the press conference, “Women are vital to our society and economy, and when women thrive, Maine thrives. For those reasons we will oppose wrong-headed bills that take us backwards. As we have for decades, we will oppose any effort to undermine a woman’s autonomy over her own reproduction. Once again this year we will oppose any attempt to abridge our civil rights, including granting exemption from state laws based on religious objection. And we will oppose efforts that demonize people who need our help.” Read more on our blog.

A LOOK AT THE 2015 LEGISLATIVE SESSION

When the new legislative session kicked off earlier this month, Danna Hayes, MWL Director of Public Policy, was there. While we are still reviewing the more than 1,500 bills that have been submitted this year by Maine legislators and the administration, we wanted to give you a quick look at some of the issues we know will be addressed over the next six months.

In addition to the issues we highlighted at Maine Women’s Day at the State House, we will be supporting efforts to raise the minimum wage, increase access to health care – including dental health care, strengthening the Kid-Safe Products Act, strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), and helping seniors age in place. And we will be working to defeat anti-choice legislation, a dangerous bill that would allow people to use their personal religious beliefs to break laws meant to protect us all, efforts to deny General Assistance to new Mainers who are seeking asylum in our country, and policies that hurt the economic security of women and children living in poverty – policies that are based on stereotypes and anecdotes rather than the real experiences of families struggling to get by.

We’ll be sharing more details about these and many other proposals as more bills are printed and legislative hearings are scheduled. If you would like to help us work on any of these issues, there are many different ways to get involved. Tell us you want to help by contacting us at 207-622-051 x2 or at info@mainewomen.org to talk to us about the issues that matter most to you.

HELP MAKE GIRLS’ DAY AT THE STATE HOUSE A SUCCESS

For almost two decades, the Maine Women’s Policy Center has been bringing 100 eighth grade girls from across the state to Augusta to learn about the importance of women’s leadership and how the public policy decisions get made. The 19th Annual Girls’ Day at the State House will happen on Thursday, March 5, 2015. There are several ways you can help make it a successful day for the girls who participate:

  • Become a mentor. Our volunteer mentors spend the day with a group of ten girls – we can’t do the day without them.
  • Volunteer for part of the day. If you can’t spend the entire day with us, you can still help out. Spend either the morning or the afternoon with us to lend a helping hand.
  • Be a Girls’ Day sponsor. If you or your business would like to make a financial contribution to support this special day, email mbogart@mainewomen.org or call 207-622-0851 x2.

These words from 2014 participant Rebecca, a Waterville student, about her experience last year sum up what makes Girls’ Day such an important event each year:  “You should never let anyone stop you from speaking out and following your dreams.”

UPDATE ON THE CITIZEN-INITIATED RULE TO REQUIRE THE MAINE DEP TO TAKE ACTION ON DANGEROUS PHTHALATES

Together, we gathered signatures in every county in the state. We packed the public hearing and outnumbered the corporate lobbyists 50 to 1. We flooded the DEP’s mailboxes with thousands of comments. With your help, we’re gaining ground. The citizen-initiated rule that you helped put before the Maine Department of Environmental Protection will force big companies to disclose the use of phthalates in a handful of key materials that kids are exposed to in homes, schools and childcare facilities. That’s a big win, and we couldn’t have done it without you!

Unfortunately, it’s not all good news. The DEP took a red pen to the rule and excluded products that expose pregnant women to phthalates from the DEP’s revised rule. This leaves pregnant women completely in the dark about which products are safer and which could cause harm. Maine lawmakers designed a system to follow the science, not cherry-pick facts to protect the chemical industry.

This is not the first time the DEP has chosen to narrow the focus of a rule to suit the chemical industry and product makers rather than protect the health of Maine people. That’s why we’re turning to our law-makers to get the job done… not just on phthalates, but on all chemicals that threaten the health of Maine families. We’ll be working to pass legislation to strengthen the Kid-Safe Products Act this year. We’ll be sharing more details soon – and if you would like to help work on this issue, contact Kathy at 207-622-0851 x3 or kkilraindelrio@mainewomen.org.

Learn more with these pieces featuring our own Kathy Kilrain del Rio:

MPBN: Critics: Maine’s Proposed Rules on Phthalates Fall Short

Portland Press Herald: Draft rule to protect Mainers from phthalates weakened by state DEP

KEEPING THE MOMENTUM GOING FOR HEALTH CARE

As you know, we’ve been working with the Cover Maine Now coalition to bring new federal funds to Maine to cover tens of thousands of uninsured Mainers. Accepting these federal dollars, which have already been set aside to cover Maine’s uninsured, will benefit all Maine people and boost Maine’s economy.

It’s truly a win-win – but to make it happen, we need your help. The Legislature is currently considering the plan, and they need to know that you support it.

Please sign our petition to show your support.

Accepting federal funds will save lives and save money. We know that you want us to continue to fight for this plan, which would provide health coverage to more than 69,500 Mainers and save taxpayer dollars by fully expanding MaineCare. Sign the petition today.

STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS SHINES A LIGHT ON POLICIES THAT SUPPORT WORKING FAMILIES

We already knew that President Obama supports many of the policies that we featured inBuilding a Prosperous Maine: A Roadmap to Economic Security for Maine Women and Their Families because some of those policies were the focus of the White House Summit on Working Families last June. But it was great to hear him draw national attention to theimportance of raising the minimum wage, making sure workers can earn paid sick days, ending the disgrace of America being one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t ensure paid family leave, and increasing access to affordable, high-quality childcareduring his State of Union address to Congress on January 20th. Watch the address atwww.whitehouse.gov/sotu or read it here.

We will continue to work for these polices and you can help. Do you have a story about how the lack of paid sick days or paid family & medical leave has affected your family? We want to hear from you. Are you willing to write a letter to the editor, write and op-ed, contact lawmakers, or take other action as opportunities arise? Let us know. Call Kathy at 207-622-0851 x3 or email kkilraindelrio@mainewomen.org.

COURTS MATTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

We’ve written before about the importance of the federal courts. Over the next few months, we’ll be focusing on some of the ways they impact our lives. This infographic highlights the ways the courts matter for reproductive rights.

Go to whycourtsmatter.org/issues/reproductiverights to see the full infographic and learn more about the connection between women’s access to reproductive health care and the federal courts. You can stay up to date on what’s happening with the federal courts by searching for the #CourtsMatter hashtag – and by connecting with us on Twitter andFacebook.

SUPPORT THE MAINE WOMEN’S LOBBY IN 2015

We’re so grateful for the support of our members across the state. Earlier this week, we shared 15 reasons to support the Maine Women’s Lobby in 2015 (read the list here). Support from members like you has allowed MWL to be the voice of Maine women in the halls of the statehouse and beyond for over 35 years. Please consider making a gift of $15 for 2015 today. Visit bit.ly/mwldonate, call 207-622-0851 x2, or mail your check to Maine Women’s Lobby at 124 Sewall St., Augusta, ME 04430.

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  • Women are 51% of the population, but are underrepresented at every level of government where policy decisions that affect our lives are made.
  • On the first day of the new Congressional session, the majority party chose to fight for restrictions on abortion services as its top priority.
  • And once again we need to fight bad bills in the Maine legislature that would restrict access to abortion.
  • Last year we helped defeat a dangerous bill that would have allowed people to use their religious beliefs to break laws meant to protect us all. It’s back.
  • Nearly 70,000 Maine people still can’t access the health care they need because obstructive politicians chose ideology over good health and economic common sense. But there’s still time for Maine to act.
  • Too many politicians and people in the media use stereotypes and anecdotes to talk about policies that affect women and children living in poverty rather than looking at the real people struggling to get by.
  • In Maine, more than 6 in 10 minimum wage workers are women and they need a raise.
  • More than 80% of low-wage workers can’t earn a single paid sick day – most are women who have frequent public contact in jobs such as food service, child care, elder care, and retail.
  • Only 12% of the American workforce has access to paid leave.
  • While the data overwhelmingly demonstrates the importance of early childhood programs, more than 11,000 Maine kids do not have access to Head Start due to underfunding.
  • Too many women and children still can’t live their lives free from violence.
  • Sexual assaults happen every day, and too often our culture blames the victims rather than the perpetrators.
  • Maine is the only state in New England that doesn’t have a policy against shackling pregnant inmates.
  • Maine women only earn 79 cents for every dollar made by their male counterparts.
  • We’re your voice in the halls of the statehouse and beyond when decisions about issues like these are being made.

For over 35 years, we’ve stood up for a full range of issues that affect the lives of women and our families. Your gift of $15 for 2015 will help make sure we continue to be your voice when the future of Maine women and girls is on the line.

Make a Donation Today

Become a Loyal Lobbyist and support our work all year long.  It’s simple. Make a recurring donation of $5, $15, $25 or whatever fits your budget. Just select ‘recurring donation’ when you make your gift online, or call 207-622-0851 x2 to talk to someone about your gift.

Thank you for your support!

Eliza, Danna, Kathy, and Molly

 

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