Skip to contentNational Women's Law Center

Womenstake, NWLC's Blog

When $9.49 Isn't Enough: HBO's Revealing Portrait of One Working Mother

Posted by Alana Eichner, Program Assistant | Posted on: March 20, 2014 at 11:04 am

If you want a harrowing reminder of the human reality of the policies, and spending priorities, that NWLC champions, look no further than HBO’s new documentary, “Paycheck to Paycheck, the Life and Times of Katrina Gilbert.” The new film profiles Katrina Gilbert, a 30-year-old single mother of three children, all under the age of 5, living and working in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

In my work at the National Women’s Law Center, sometimes among all the statistics and infographics, if you’re not careful it’s possible to lose sight of the daily reality of the 18 million women living in poverty. Yet watching each facet of Katrina’s story I was continually reminded of how the public policies that may seem abstract would have tangible consequences for Katrina and her family.

Read more... 1 comment

"Getting Organized" Update Details Advances and Setbacks in the Movement to Organize Home-Based Child Care Providers

Posted by Emily Wales, Fellow | Posted on: March 18, 2014 at 12:01 pm

“Get organized.”

It’s a rallying cry for workers across many industries who face challenging employment conditions. By organizing to negotiate collectively with employers, workers have sought better compensation and improved on-the-job conditions. In a number of states, home-based child care providers who serve families receiving state child care assistance or are regulated by the state have sought authorization to join unions and negotiate with the state. Providers seeking to join these unions – which may include, depending on the state, regulated family child care (FCC) providers who may or may not be receiving public funds to provide care to children from low-income families and family, friend, and neighbor (FFN) providers who are exempt from regulation but serve children receiving state child care assistance – have met with mixed success, but this organizing strategy remains a promising approach to improving the pay and working conditions of this overwhelmingly female and poorly paid workforce and increasing state investments in child care.

Read more... Add new comment

Did You Read Your Employment Contract?

Posted by Elizabeth Johnston, Fellow | Posted on: March 14, 2014 at 04:12 pm

So you are starting a new job. Congratulations! You are probably going to be handed a bunch of paperwork and told to read through it. Do you? If you are like me, you might not read too carefully. You might just sign it. If you are lucky, it will never come up again. But, if something does go wrong, you may have unknowingly agreed to waive your right to have future claims against your employer heard by a judge or jury.

The Federal Arbitration Act, was originally intended to apply to disputes between companies of similar sophistication and bargaining power, but a series of court decisions have broadened its scope and it is now used by employers and corporations to keep their employees out of court. Why does it matter?

Here are just a few reasons. Businesses are repeat players in arbitration, and usually choose the arbitrator. Most forced arbitration clauses prohibit class actions. Arbitration is often prohibitively expensive for individuals, and damages received by plaintiffs in arbitration are much lower-- on average about ½ of what courts would bestow. Research shows that arbitration results in more wins [PDF] for businesses then in court.

Read more... 2 comments

Celebrating Women's History Month: A Look at Judicial Milestones

Posted by Cortelyou Kenney, Fellow | Posted on: March 14, 2014 at 11:41 am

March is women’s history month, and, as such, it is a good opportunity take stock of the gains women have made in terms of their representation on the federal judiciary in the past year and under the Obama Administration more generally. One of President Obama’s signature accomplishments was the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, where three women now serve for the first time in history. While the Supreme Court tends to garner more attention, President Obama has had an impact on the gender balance on lower federal courts as well. While the percentage of women still lags in other arenas, for example with women comprising only 4.6% of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies, women have increasingly been appointed to the federal bench: slightly under 43% of the President Obama’s confirmed nominees over the course of his administration have been women. (This percentage is nearly double the percentage of women among President George W. Bush’s confirmed judges.)

Over the last year, President Obama nominated and saw confirmed two outstanding women to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals—widely viewed as the second most important court in the country. The confirmation of these two women, Judges Patricia Millett and Cornelia (“Nina”) Pillard, brings the number of active women judges on the D.C. Circuit to nearly 50%, a historic high. 2013 also marked the confirmation of Jane Kelly to the Eight Circuit, important because she is only the second female to ever have graced that court. And, just this week, Carolyn B. McHugh was confirmed to the Tenth Circuit, bringing the number of active female judges on that court to two (out of eleven).

Read more... Add new comment

6 Pie Charts for Pi Day: Women and the Low-Wage Workforce

Posted by Lauren Frohlich, Fellow | Posted on: March 14, 2014 at 11:07 am

In the data visual representation world, pie charts are often maligned [PDF] as the lesser version of a bar chart. Sure, it can be difficult to grasp precise information when it is presented in pie-form, but pie charts can also be a simple way to compare parts to a whole. Since today is Pi Day (∏=3.14159…= March 14th is 3.14, get it?) I thought it would be a great time to display the power of pie charts when representing proportions. In particular, I’ll show you how women are disproportionately represented in low-wage jobs in three sets of pie charts based on new NWLC analysis of data from the Current Population Survey.

For this analysis, the “low-wage workforce” is defined as the ten largest jobs that typically pay less than $10.10 per hour. These jobs and the percentage of women in each occupation are: childcare workers (95%); home health aides (89%); maids and housekeepers (88%); personal care aides (84%); cashiers (72%); waiters and waitresses (70%); combined food preparers and servers (65%); bartenders (58%); food preparation workers (56%); and hand packers and packagers (49%). As you can see, women make up about half or more of workers in each of these occupations. Now the pie charts will tell the rest:

Read more... 4 comments

Congress Acts to Restore Strong Protections from Workplace Harassment

Posted by Emily Werth, Fellow | Posted on: March 14, 2014 at 10:57 am

When the person at work who has the authority to give you assignments and oversee your performance sexually harasses you, should your employer have a heightened legal responsibility to protect you from the harassment?

Surprisingly, right now the answer may be no. Recently a narrow majority of the Supreme Court said that if you are harassed by someone who directs your daily work but does not have the power to hire or fire you, then it will be more difficult for you to hold your employer responsible. Fortunately, now there is legislation in the U.S. Congress to correct this artificial distinction between superiors who can hire and fire and those who can only direct daily work activities – the Fair Employment Protection Act.

Read more... 4 comments

Senators Announce Possible Deal to Extend Emergency Unemployment Insurance

Posted by Emily Wales, Fellow | Posted on: March 14, 2014 at 10:43 am

For the more than 2 million unemployed Americans whose unemployment insurance (UI) benefits were cut off last December, there’s hope.

Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who has been leading efforts to extend federal emergency UI benefits for long-term jobless workers, announced yesterday that Senate negotiators have reached a bipartisan deal. The agreement, if passed, would extend benefits for workers who have been unemployed more than six months and whose state benefits have run out. The extension would provide for five months of federal benefits and allow for retroactive payments dating back to the program’s expiration in December.

We’ve told you before how crucial UI benefits are for workers struggling to make ends meet. With the economy continuing to recover, long-term unemployed workers know just how difficult it is to find a job, and they rely on benefits to put food on the table, put gas in their cars, and keep up with rent payments until they secure work. Long-term unemployment rates are still at historic levels – in fact, the long-term unemployment rate rose for women last month. Congress’ failure to act has hurt families around the country – and this latest report of a deal doesn’t mean the battle’s over.

Read more... Add new comment

Fair Employment Protection Act Introduced!

Posted by Liz Watson, Senior Counsel and Director of Workplace Justice for Women | Posted on: March 14, 2014 at 10:29 am

On March 13, 2014 Senator Tammy Baldwin, Senator Tom Harkin, Congressman George Miller, and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro introduced the Fair Employment Protection Act, (S.2133, H.R. 4227) with 12 original cosponsors in the Senate, and 24 original cosponsors in the House. The Fair Employment Protection Act is a commonsense bill to provide strong protections from workplace harassment.

Read more... 1 comment