In entering upon the great work before us, we anticipate no small amount of misconception, misrepresentation, and ridicule; but we shall use every instrumentality within our power to effect our object. We shall employ agents, circulate tracts, petition the State and national Legislatures, and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and the press in our behalf. We hope this Convention will be followed by a series of Conventions, embracing every part of the country.

“Firmly relying upon the final triumph of the Right and the True, we do this day affix our signatures to this declaration.

–the signers of the Declaration of Sentiments on July 20, 1848 at the First Women’s Rights Convention

 

Do you receive our e-newsletter and action alerts right in your inbox? Make your you never miss an update by subscribing today: bit.ly/mwlemail

 

A ROLLER COASTER OF A SESSION COMES TO AN END

The Legislature adjourned on July 16th after dealing with the final vetoes and bills of the session. Before then, we had some surprises from the governor’s office. When Governor LePage decided to play politics by not vetoing 65 bills that he was expected to veto, several of our priorities became law without a veto override fight. In case you missed our earlier message about them, here’s what we celebrated:

  • LD 921, sponsored by Rep. Matthea Daughtry (D-Brunswick) with cosponsors on both sides of the aisle, increases the penalties for employers who ignore the law and fire victims and survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking when they take time off to attend court proceedings or seek medical care and other services. As one survivor testified during the public hearing, “If this bill had been law several months ago, my life would likely be very different than it is now.”
  • LD 319, sponsored by Rep. Jay McCreight (D-Harpswell), will strengthen the economic security of women at or below 209% of the federal poverty level by providing increased access to preventative health care services, including contraception, cancer screenings, STI testing, and Pap tests. It’s common-sense legislation that will help low-income women take charge of their reproductive health.
  • LD 1013, sponsored by Sen. Anne Haskell (D-Cumberland) with strong bipartisan support, will bar the shackling of pregnant prisoners except in extraordinary circumstances. Now Maine joins the rest of New England in banning this inhumane and medically dangerous procedure.
  • LD 369, which was amended by Sen. Amy Volk (R-Cumberland), will make sure asylum seekers can receive General Assistance (GA) for up to two years. This was one of the most controversial issues of the session, but it shouldn’t have been. Immigrants who have made their home in Maine are a vital part of our communities and economy. The governor hoped that pitting one group of Mainers against another, he could score political points. What we’ve actually seen over the course of this debate are more and more people across our state standing with immigrants to say we are all Maine.

We’ll be sharing a more complete review of the legislative session with roll-calls so you can see how your legislators voted on these and other priorities for women this year. Stay tuned!

 

A HUGE WIN FOR WORKERS

We celebrated another big win this month when the Portland City Council voted to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 in 2016, $10.68 in 2017, and linking future increases to inflation. With that vote, Portland became the first city in the Northeast to raise the minimum wage. This is a huge step forward for low-wage workers—who are mostly women—and is a real investment in the local economy. Read more about the path to this raise in the city’s minimum wage on our blog: Totally Worth the Long Journey.

Unfortunately the story doesn’t end there. Tipped workers also received a raise to their base wage and councilors are considering taking that increase away. That’s totally unacceptable! We think tipped workers shouldn’t be left behind—they deserve a raise, too.

Women are the majority of workers earning the tipped minimum wage. Tipped workers experience poverty at higher rates than other workers, and they are less likely to be able to earn paid sick days, or receive health and retirement benefits. Learn more on our blog: MWL Urges Portland City Council to Stand with Our Most Vulnerable Workers;  Portland: Don’t Leave Tipped Workers Behind

If you live in Portland, please let your city councilors know that you don’t want them to leave tipped workers behind. Want to do more? Contact Kathy at 207-622-0851 x3 or kkilraindelrio@mainewomen.org to get involved in other ways.

Portland isn’t the only city looking at this important issue. Bangor’s City Council is also considering raising its minimum wage. We’d like to see them improve the current proposal, but it is great to see another municipality looking at investing in its workers. In August, the Business & Economic Development Committee will be looking at this issue further. If you live in Bangor and would like to connect with your councilors, contact Kathy at 207-622-0851 x3 or kkilraindelrio@mainewomen.org and she’ll help you get involved.

 

GETTING CLOSE TO FIXING OUR BROKEN CHEMICAL SAFETY SYSTEM

For years we’ve been telling you about our efforts to help fix our nation’s broken chemical safety system. Right now we are closer than ever before to having Congress pass real, meaningful reform. The House of Representatives passed H.R.2576 with a vote of 398-1. This bill would require a review of the safety of ten chemicals each year, and it would also make sure the states aren’t prohibited from restricting the use of a chemical until after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already taken the same action on that chemical. That’s important for states like Maine which have already demonstrated leadership in getting toxic chemicals out of the products we use every day.

Sen. Udall (D-NM) and Sen. Vitter (R-LA) have put forward S.697 that they claim is a comprehensive reform legislation, but it is far, far too weak. Under the Senate bill, the EPA would only review the safety of twenty-five chemicals over the next eight years, and the states would be blocked from taking timely action on a chemical during the EPA review period. That’s why we’ve joined with other concerned Mainers to ask Sen. Collins and Sen. King to not support S.697 and instead call on their Senate colleagues to use the House bill as a framework for reform.

Read more about the House and Senate bills:  The House Passes TSCA Reform! What’s in it? What’s next?

This is our chance to really fix our chemical safety system—a system that has been broken for more than three decades. We need Congress to do this right.

Exposure to dangerous chemicals has been linked to cancer, learning disabilities, fertility, birth defects, brain development, asthma, allergies, and other serious health concerns. The stakes are too high to let the chemical industry have all the power. Our Senators need to know that Maine people are watching.

Please take a few minutes to contact our Senators by early next week so that they know that Maine people care about getting dangerous chemicals out of the products we use in our everyday lives.

TAKE ACTION NOW

 

MAKING SURE EVERYONE CAN TAKE TIME TO GET WELL

The National Partnership for Women and Families has released new state-by-state fact sheets on the need for all workers to be able to earn paid sick days. The facts remain grim. Nearly 200,000 Maine workers in the private sector can’t earn even one paid sick day—not even one day to recover from the flu, or one day to stay home with a sick child, or one day to go to the doctor when they need medical care. Forty-two percent of our workforce has to choose between their health and their paycheck. That’s a choice no one should have to make.

Introduced in both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, the Healthy Families Act would help change that. By creating a national paid sick days standard, more workers would be able to earn the time they need to get well. It would allow workers in businesses with 15 or more employees to earn up to seven job-protected paid sick days each year, and workers in businesses with fewer than 15 employees would earn up to seven job-protected unpaid sick days each year to be used for the same reasons, unless their employers choose to offer paid sick days. While we would like all employees to be able to earn paid sick days, ensuring that no one will lose their job when they get sick will make a big difference for the many workers who risk getting fired if they take time to get well.

Congresswoman Pingree is a co-sponsor of the House version of the bill, H.R.932, but Congressman Poliquin is not. Neither Senator Collins nor Senator King have yet signed on as sponsors to the Senate version of the bill, S.497. You can call to ask for their support of the Healthy Families Act at the following numbers, and we’ll be sharing other opportunities to take action soon.

Rep. Bruce Poliquin:  202-225-6306

Sen. Susan Collins:  202-224-2523

Sen. Angus King:  202-224-5344

Have you ever had to choose between your paycheck and taking a sick day? Has your child ever been sick, but you couldn’t afford to take a day off to bring them to the doctor? Are you a business owner who provides your employees with paid sick days? Share your stories at bit.ly/myPSDstory, or call Molly at 207-622-0851 x2.

Learn more about the facts for Maine:  Mainers Need Paid Sick Days

  

REGISTRATION NOW OPEN FOR THE MAINE WOMEN’S SUMMIT ON ECONOMIC SECURITY

On Friday, October 16th people from across the state will come together at the Augusta Civic Center to look at turning the ideas from our Roadmap to Economic Security for Women and Their Families into action. We hope you can join us.

Caroline Fredrickson, author of Under the Bus: How Working Women Are Being Run Over, will give the keynote address. We’ll be sharing more details about the full agenda soon.

You can register today at Maine Women’s Summit on Economic Security.

Interested in becoming a sponsor or advertising? You can download the forms online. Contact Kathy at 207-622-0851 x3 orkkilraindelrio@mainewomen.org if you have any questions.

 

CELEBRATING WOMEN’S EQUALITY DAY

In 1971, Congress designated August 26th as Women’s Equality Day at the request of Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY). That date was chosen in remembrance of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which established women’s right to vote. It’s also a day to highlight our continuing efforts for full equality.

This year we are celebrating with our friends from the Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center in Bangor at West Market Square from 5-7 PM. Mark your calendar to join the celebration of Women’s Equality Day and demand even more progress.

 

SUPPORT OUR WORK

One of the best ways to support our work to create a future where all women can live our lives free from violence and discrimination, with access to a full range of health care—including reproductive health care, and real economic security is to make a recurring donation each month so that we have a steady stream of income to depend on. A small gift can really add up: with a monthly donation of just $8.33, you’ll make an annual gift of $100; a monthly donation of $15 in honor of 2015 adds up to $180 in support over the course of twelve months; a monthly donation of $21 becomes a leadership gift of $250 after a year.

Please consider making an online gift today at bit.ly/mwldonate. You can also send a check payable to the Maine Women’s Lobby at 124 Sewall St., Augusta, ME 04330, or call Molly at 207-622-0851 x2.

And don’t forget to sign up for our Action Alert system so you can receive our monthly e-newsletter and opportunities to take action right in your inbox. Sign up today: bit.ly/mwlemail.

Thank you so much for your support.

 

The US Senate is considering legislation by Senators Udall (D-NM) and Vitter (R-LA) that claims to be comprehensive reform of our nation’s chemical policy. But the bill (S.697) is far too weak. EPA would only review the safety of 25 chemicals over the next 8 years. And the price of that meager schedule is that states would be blocked from taking timely action, during the EPA review.

Meanwhile, a bill that recently passed the House by a whopping margin of 398–1 shows much more promise. H.R. 2576 would review the safety of 10 chemicals each year, a speedier schedule compared with the Senate, and states would not be prohibited from restricting a chemical until after the EPA has already taken the same action on that chemical.

Maine has been a leader on chemical safety reform–tell our Senators that reform should only go forward, not backward.

TAKE ACTION NOW

The EPA should take more action on chemicals. The worst chemicals should be identified and acted on first. And states should be free to take appropriate action to protect their citizens in a timely manner. At this point, the Senate should use the House bill as a starting framework, and add improvements to it.

The Senate vote could happen any time. Please contact Senator Collins and Senator King today.

It’s taken more than 35 years to get close to real reform at the federal level–let’s make sure we do the best we can with this opportunity. It matters for the health of Maine women and our families today and it matters for the health of future generations. Thank you for taking action.

We told you last week that the Portland City Council voted to raise the minimum wage last week. Their decision to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 in 2016, $10.68 in 2017, and then linking future increases to inflation showed real leadership. This will help low-wage workers take a big step forward on the road to economic security.

Unfortunately the story doesn’t end there. Tipped workers also received a raise to their base wage and councilors are considering taking that increase away. That’s totally unacceptable! We think tipped workers shouldn’t be left behind—they deserve a raise, too.

Women are the majority of workers earning the tipped minimum wage. Tipped workers experience poverty at higher rates than other workers, and they are less likely to be able to earn paid sick days, or receive health and retirement benefits. Learn more on our blog: MWL Blog.

The City Council will be reconsidering the minimum wage increase. Please join us in telling our councilors to stand with tipped workers.

Mayor Brennan, with Councilors Costa, Donoghue, Duson, Hinck, and Marshall voted to pass the minimum wage increase. When you contact these councilors, please thank them for their leadership and urge them to continue to stand with our city’s most vulnerable workers—those making the tipped minimum wage.

Mayor Michael Brennan
Phone: 207-874-8941
mfpb@portlandmaine.gov

Councilor Justin Costa, District 4
Phone: 207-522-2004
jcosta@portlandmaine.gov

Councilor Kevin Donoghue, District 1
Phone: 207-409-2807
kjdonoghue@portlandmaine.gov

Councilor Jill Duson, At-Large
Phone: 207-878-0769
jduson@portlandmaine.gov

Councilor Jon Hinck, At-Large
Phone: 207-450-0003
jhinck@portlandmaine.gov

Councilor David Marshall, District 2
Phone: 207-409-6617
damarshall@portlandmaine.gov

Councilors Brenerman, Mavadones, and Suslovic voted against the minimum wage increase. When you contact them, tell them they still have time to do the right thing by standing with tipped workers.

Councilor Brenerman, District 5
Phone: 207-807-4053
dbrenerman@portlandmaine.gov

Councilor Nicholas Mavodones, Jr., At-Large
Phone: 207-774-0257
nmm@portlandmaine.gov

Councilor Edward Suslovic, District 3
Phone: 207-671-6320
edsuslovic@portlandmaine.gov

For more information about why raising the tipped minimum wage matters for women and our families, check out our blog, this resource from the National Women’s Law Center, and this resource from The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United & Forward Together. This report from the Economic Policy Institute does a great job of explaining why so many workers who make the tipped minimum wage struggle to get paid all the deserve: Twenty-Three Years and Still Waiting for Change.

All work has value. Tipped wage earners work hard. Councilors shouldn’t leave them out of a wage increase for other minimum wage earners. The Portland City Council should do the right thing and continue the leadership they demonstrated in raising the minimum wage last week by saying loud and clear that all of Portland’s workers are important to the city and they won’t allow our most vulnerable workers to be left behind.

Thank you for taking action on this important issue.

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Oh, what a month it’s been for Maine women! We truly can’t contain our joy.

Due to Governor LePage playing politics with his expected vetoes, four of our priority bills have now become law. We worked hard to pass these important pieces of legislation and the lives of thousands of Maine women will improve because of them. Here’s what we’re celebrating:

  • LD 921, sponsored by Rep. Matthea Daughtry (D-Brunswick) with cosponsors on both sides of the aisle, increases the penalties for employers who ignore the law and fire victims and survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking when they take time off to attend court proceedings or seek medical care and other services. As one survivor testified during the public hearing, “If this bill had been law several months ago, my life would likely be very different than it is now.”
  • LD 319, sponsored by Rep. Jay McCreight (D-Harpswell), will strengthen the economic security of women at or below 209% of the federal poverty level by providing increased access to preventative health care services, including contraception, cancer screenings, STI testing, and pap tests. It’s common-sense legislation that will help low-income women take charge of their reproductive health.
  • LD 1013, sponsored by Sen. Anne Haskell (D-Cumberland) with strong bipartisan support, will bar the shackling of pregnant prisoners except in extraordinary circumstances. Now Maine joins the rest of New England in banning this inhumane and medically dangerous procedure.  
  • LD 369, which was amended by Sen. Amy Volk (R-Cumberland), will make sure asylum seekers can receive General Assistance (GA) for up to two years. This was one of the most controversial issues of the session, but it shouldn’t have been. Immigrants who have made their home in Maine are a vital part of our communities and economy. The governor hoped that pitting one group of Mainers against another, he could score political points. What we’ve actually seen over the course of this debate are more and more people across our state standing with immigrants to say we are all Maine. 

Throughout the session, we’ve been working to make these bills become law. While we couldn’t have imagined the governor’s actions of this past week, it took a lot of hard work to pass these bills through the legislature.

And to add to the joy of these legislative wins, last week we rejoiced in a meaningful minimum wage increase passed by the Portland City Council. Not only is this a huge win for working families in our largest city, it’s a victory for our state because it will help bolster efforts to raise the minimum wage in other cities and statewide. After a year and a half of hard work, Portland’s minimum wage will be $10.10 in 2016, $10.68 in 2017, and then it will be indexed to inflation going forward. We still have more to do to ensure that tipped workers keep the raise the City Council gave them, but we’ll share more about that later. 

For now, we’re dancing to celebrate these victories. Thank you for sticking with us through this challenging legislative session. We’ll continue to stay on top of developments in Augusta, Portland, and beyond. 

Whoo-hoo!! 

 

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Eliza Townsend, executive director of the Maine Women’s Lobby, issued the following statement about the impact on tipped wage earners of Portland’s new ordinance raising the minimum wage to $10.10 in 2016, and setting the city’s tip credit at $3.75:

The Maine Women’s Lobby commends the Portland City Council for its leadership in passing a meaningful minimum wage increase on Monday night. The high cost of living in Portland and stagnant wages for hard-working Mainers made it imperative for the city to act. When this increase goes into effect in January, our local economy will get a boost—and most importantly, our neighbors who make the minimum wage will have a better ability to pay for their food, housing, and other everyday expenses.

This was a momentous and important step towards ensuring all Mainers can have real economic security.

Throughout the discussion of this ordinance, we have been deeply concerned about the needs of tipped workers. The vast majority of tipped workers are women. In addition to restaurant servers, employees in other occupations also receive tips, including hairdressers, barbers, delivery drivers, and massage therapists. A 2014 report by the Economic Policy Institute found that the poverty rate for tipped workers is twice that of other workers, and tipped workers in the restaurant industry experience poverty at nearly three times the rate of other workers.

Ensuring that tipped workers are paid a wage increase makes good economic sense for taxpayers. About 46% of tipped workers and their families need public assistance programs to meet their basic needs compared to 35.5% of non-tipped workers and their families. Rather than subsidize low wages, we should ensure that all workers can earn enough to meet their basic needs.

Tipped workers also face other challenges because our workplace policies haven’t kept up with the realities of today’s families. They are more likely to be unable to earn even one paid sick day, and are less likely to have health insurance or retirement benefits.

Relying on tips and having a lower base wage makes tipped workers’ incomes less stable, making them some of the most vulnerable workers in our community. This is illustrated by a 2014 report that found 37% of all sexual harassment claims to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) come from the restaurant industry. These are only reported incidents of sexual harassment—we know that harassment often goes unreported. The same report found that sexual harassment is experienced across the restaurant industry regardless of gender, but impacts women and people who are transgender the most. More than half the women in the industry experience harassment on a weekly basis. Providing tipped workers with greater wage stability and economic security will give them greater flexibility to report and address this unacceptable behavior.

We strongly urge the city council to remember that what makes Portland such a desirable destination for tourists, businesses, and people relocating from other states, is its character, vibrancy, and diversity. Giving tipped workers a raise strengthens our economy and shows that we value all our workers. In fact, in the seven states that pay tipped workers the regular minimum wage, the leisure and hospitality sectors have seen stronger growth since 1995 than the states where tipped workers are paid a subminimum wage. Investing in all our people is an important tool for economic growth.

All work has value. Tipped wage earners work hard. We shouldn’t leave them out of a wage increase for other minimum wage earners. We call on the Portland City Council to do the right thing and continue the leadership they demonstrated in their decision on Monday night by saying loud and clear that all of Portland’s workers are important to the city and they won’t allow our most vulnerable workers to be left behind.

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