Equal Pay/Fair Wage

Smeal Adds Up Wage Gains; Ms. Looks for More

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Despite the historic downturn in the economy, Ms. Magazine's publisher sees many partial wage-related gains for women through the efforts of the federal government. The current issue of the magazine advances a complete paycheck agenda.

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Smeal described the paycheck bill as a modest measure that is expected to advance later in this Congress.

Congress also may finish work on the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act by the end of the year. Passed by the House in June, the bill would provide a month of paid maternity or paternity leave to the federal government's 1.8 million employees.

'Gain Is a Gain'

Although such a measure falls short of a national change in law, the federal government's positive experience with paid leave for new parents may convince employers that the added benefit would be an overall gain for them.

"A gain is a gain," Smeal said. "You take what you can get and run."

Another bill waits more tentatively in the wings: the Healthy Families Act (HR 2460), sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat. Stalled since it was introduced in May, it would require every employer to pay sick leave of up to seven days. Data compiled by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, based in Washington, D.C., found that 40 percent of working women--more than 22 million women--have no paid sick leave.

On Oct. 20, Ms. Magazine published "Paycheck Feminism," by Karen Kornbluh and Rachel Homer, which enumerates the economic reforms Smeal regards as unfinished business.

The article calls for changes in Social Security, health insurance, family and medical leave, child care and payroll taxes. The article, now available online, will appear in the Nov. 3 issue of the magazine.

The unemployment rate for women who head households reached 10 percent by May, according to an analysis by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress. The report did not provide the unemployment rate for men who head households.

By October, the unemployment rate for all men was 11 percent and 8.4 percent for all women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Rich Daly is a writer in Washington D.C.

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