Top 5 IWPR Findings of 2015

By Rachel Eichhorn and Rachel Linn

What a year it’s been for the Institute for Women’s Policy Research! In 2015, we released 119 publications, including the seven chapter Status of Women in the States: 2015 report, with an accompanying interactive website. IWPR research was cited more than 2,100 times in media outlets around the country – from a feature in Glamour Magazine to a skit on Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer. Our staff also presented or participated in over 60 meetings and events on key issues affecting women and families.

Below are our top 5 findings of 2015 (plus a bonus!) from our many research reports. Let us know which one you found most interesting or surprising on Twitter or Facebook using #IWPRtop5.

1. The overall best state for women in America is Minnesota. The worst states are Alabama and Mississippi.

SWS EE map

This Spring, IWPR released the highly anticipated Status of Women in the States: 2015 report, ranking and grading the status of women on six topic areas: Political Participation, Employment & Earnings, Work & Family, Poverty & Opportunity, Reproductive Rights, Health & Well-Being, plus data on Violence & Safety.

The site is also the most accessible, comprehensive source of state data on women of color in the U.S. Browse spotlight pages that highlight data on specific groups, such as older women, Millennials, women living in same-sex households, immigrant women, and women in unions.

2. There are five states that will not see equal pay until the next century: Louisiana, North Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Jon Stewart.jpg

A viral segment on The Daily Show called “The Future of Gender Wage Equality” summarized this finding perfectly when Kristen Schaal explained how humans will go to Mars before women get pay equity!

3. Women will not achieve political parity in Congress until the year 2117.

Share of Elective Offices Held by Women

In 2015, 20 of 100 members of the U.S. Senate (20 percent) and 84 of 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives (19.3 percent) are women. These numbers represent an increase since 2004, but the number of seats held by women in the U.S. Congress is still well below women’s share of the overall population.

4. Nearly half of current exempt Millennial women will gain overtime coverage under new U.S. DOL rule.

millennial overtime.jpg

In a report co-authored by MomsRising, IWPR found that working women—especially young women, single mothers, women workers of color, and women working in service and administrative support positions—have the most to gain from an increase of the overtime salary threshold to $50,440 proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor in July 2015. The collaboration with MomsRising helped to put a human face on those that would be positively affected by the rule change.

5. Women experience higher poverty rates than men for every demographic group and at all ages.

MBK fig. 1

The report, Toward Our Children’s Keeper, provides a discussion and analysis of the interim report of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, using data for males and females together as a reference point. The report argues that initiatives addressing the needs of young people of color should address the needs of girls and young women of color, as well as those of boys and young men of color, rather than targeting separate spending and program initiatives solely at boys and young men of color.

BONUS!

In 32 states, one week of additional earnings of union women is sufficient to cover the costs of full-time child care.

union advantage mapThis summer, IWPR released a briefing paper that converted women’s union advantage into childcare costs. Women represented by a union in the United States earn an average of $212 more per week than women in nonunion jobs. Union women earn more in every state, with the size of the union wage advantage varying across states: union women in Wyoming earn $349 per week more than their nonunion counterparts, while union women in the District of Columbia earn $48 more per week than D.C.’s nonunion women. This union wage advantage for women is sufficient to cover at least the weekly cost of full-time child care in a center for an infant.


You still have a chance to make research count for women in 2015. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to IWPR.

As You Celebrate the 4th, Remember Why America’s Working Families Need Unions to Stay Strong

by Brigid O’Farrell

As you celebrate with your loved ones over the holiday, remember how unions have helped American families secure prosperity and opportunity, and why we should consider unions a basic form of democracy.

The decline of the American labor movement, now representing just 12 percent of the workforce, and the corresponding increase in inequality hurts working families. Whether a home health aide, teacher, electrician, or autoworker, you are less likely to have a voice at work. This means lower wages, fewer benefits, and less ability to care for your family. It also means less democracy in our country.

The union advantage for working families starts with higher wages. On average, union women earn 13 percent more per hour than women not in unions and this is especially true for low-wage jobs women hold. The union advantage for office cleaners, for example, is 28 percent. Collective bargaining also reduces the gender wage gap between women and men by half.

Higher wages are critical to the well being of working families, but not enough. The union advantage also includes better access to higher paying jobs, often through apprenticeship training, as well as access to paid sick days, short-term disability, family leave, better schedules, and child care.

Just last week, President Obama told his White House Summit on Working Families, that, “Family leave, childcare, workplace flexibility, a decent wage—these are not frills, they are basic needs… part of our bottom line as a society.” Labor was in the house: Over 250 union members and allies made their voices heard. Liz Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO, representing 57 unions and over 13 million members, and Mary Kay Henry, president of the 2.1 million member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) highlighted union support for family friendly public policies and collective bargaining as a tried and true method for securing not only decent wages and safe working conditions, but for negotiating flexible schedules and paid leaves. For example:

Kay Thompson is the mother of four daughters who has worked at Macy’s flagship store on Herald Square in New York City for over 20 years. She is a proud member of Local 1-S, Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union/UFCW. She told the audience that she was able to provide for her family with a flexible yet predictable schedule because of her union contract.

Connie Ashbrook, union elevator constructor and executive director of Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc., focused on the 50 percent of jobs that require science, technology, engineering or math skills (STEM), but don’t require a college degree. Women are capable and interested in skilled trade jobs, but still hold less than 3 percent of these occupations. Outreach, training and enforcing employment discrimination laws are policies that help her work with unions and contractors to increase the number of women in the trades.

Union members also gathered at the AFL-CIO headquarters the day before to share their stories at Working Families Speak Up!

Dina Yarmus is a hotel and restaurant worker who defended her healthcare plan through UNITEHERE Local 274 in Philadelphia. Joanne Hager is a construction laborer from Minneapolis and trainer for LiUNA Local 563. Being a tradeswoman transformed her life—a living wage, a pension plan, a union job. Connie Leak, president of the Coalition of Labor Union Women and UAW member, told other workers that this wasn’t just about boots on the ground, but about “heels, flats, and sneakers heading to the streets” to talk about working family issues and the importance of unions, collective bargaining, and public policy.

Working family polices are often a mix of public and private actions. California provides an example of how unions helped to secure a family friendly state policy that women and men now use to sustain their families, maintain their economic stability, and keep their jobs.

The United States is one of just three countries in the world without a paid family leave policy. California was the first state to take action to address this problem, now joined by New Jersey and Rhode Island.

Under the California Paid Family Leave Act employees pay into the insurance system regardless of the size of their employer and have access to six weeks of paid leave to care for new children or ill family members. Employers do not pay into the system, but have to accommodate the time off. The Labor Project for Working Families helped make paid leave in California a reality. They receive leadership and financial support from many unions and worked for years to help pass this bill. 

In Unfinished Business, Paid Family Leave in California and the Future of U.S. Work-Family Policy, professors Ruth Milkman and Eileen Appelbaum document labor’s role and their finding that there are almost no negative effects on business. Management executives talk about how good the program is for their companies. Many employees, however, are unaware that they pay into the fund and have access to the benefits. This is true in the building and construction industry where any kind of paid leave has not generally been available.

Krista Brooks and Johnathan Brooks, both apprentice electricians with IBEW Local 617 in San Mateo, CA, illustrate how having good apprenticeship jobs and a paid family leave policy are very important to families. Krista, one of the 2.6 percent of women in the skilled trades, just graduated from her apprenticeship program and is completing her work hours to reach journey-level status. Johnathan is a second year apprentice. Both parents were able to spend quality time with their newborn without sacrificing their much needed paychecks or their jobs.

The couple heard about paid family leave from other union members. Krista was able to take disability leave for part of her pregnancy and use paid family leave when her daughter was born. Johnathan was then able to take paid family leave in two phases. First he had two weeks right when the baby was born. A few weeks later when Krista went back to work he was able to take more time to bond with the new baby. The apprentices, their local union, and the contractors worked together maintaining insurance coverage and having jobs when the parents returned. They didn’t have their full salaries and things were tight, but paid family leave made a big difference.

While the number of women in the workforce has reached an historic proportion and more men are opting to stay home with children, the problems are not new. In 1963 President Kennedy released American Women, the report of his President’s Commission on the Status of Women. Fifty years ago the report noted that 70 other western industrialized countries offered paid maternity leave and called for the U.S. to do the same. They documented the urgent need for quality, affordable child care. The commission cited the concentration of women in low-wage jobs as the primary cause of the wage difference between women and men. They called for improved vocational education, counseling for non-traditional jobs, and an end employment discrimination against women.

The Commission stressed that the value of unions and collective bargaining had already been well established and secured through the National Labor Relations Act. They called for states to do the same. Eleanor Roosevelt, chair of the President’s Commission, wrote that “There are only two ways to bring about protection of the workers…legislation and unionization.” She later told the United Nations Human Rights Commission that “the right to form and join trades unions [is] an essential element of freedom.” For her, unions represented democracy in the workplace, with all of its strengths and weaknesses, and were a model for democracy in the country and around the world. 

Maybe it’s time for a summit on the importance of unions and collective bargaining for working families and for our democracy. But in Eleanor Roosevelt’s words, “We can’t just talk. We have got to act.” 

This post originally appeared on AlterNet. Brigid O’Farrell’s most recent book is She Was One of Us:  Eleanor Roosevelt and the American Worker.  With Betty Freidan she edited Beyond Gender: The New Politics of Work and Family. See www.bofarrell.net.

Don’t Know Much About Mentoring? Here’s How You Learn More

By Kenneth Quinnell

This article was originally posted on the AFL-CIO website.

New Union Mentoring Guide Helps Build Future Leaders

January is National Mentoring Month 2013, and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and the Berger-Marks Foundation continue to encourage unions to expand their mentoring efforts and institutionalize mentoring as part of their training efforts. The two organizations produced The Next Generation: A Handbook for Mentoring Future Union Leaders and are producing a series of workshops to help introduce mentoring concepts and help unions put together mentoring programs.

The first workshop, “Mentoring 101,” is available from the foundation and introduces mentoring, explaining what it is and what it isn’t; what it can do and what it can’t do. It also provides tools to help activists introduce the concept to leadership and to start to put together real-world mentoring programs. “Mentoring 102,” which will be available soon, helps unions put together specific mentoring programs.

President Obama’s proclamation explains the importance of mentoring:

A supportive mentor can mean the difference between struggle and success. As we mark this important occasion, I encourage all Americans to spend time as a mentor and help lift our next generation toward their hopes and dreams.

The Next Generation: A Handbook for Mentoring Future Union Leaders is available in print or online from the Berger-Marks Foundation. Contact the foundation at bergermarks@gmail.com, for more information about obtaining single or multiple copies.