Did you catch the President’s State of the Union address last night? I’m glad I did. He set forth an ambitious but pragmatic agenda to reverse the trends of widening economic inequality and stalling wage growth and upward mobility. Many of the solutions he proposed – like expanding access to affordable, quality pre-K and promoting more family-friendly workplaces – would particularly benefit women. The same is true of another policy for which the President advocated forcefully: raising the minimum wage.
As the President observed, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour “is worth about twenty percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan [took office].” Full-time minimum wage earnings amount to just $14,500 in a year, leaving a mother with two children thousands of dollars below the poverty line. Today’s low minimum wage especially harms women and their families, since women are nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers – and about two-thirds of tipped workers like restaurant servers, for whom the federal minimum cash wage has been frozen at just $2.13 an hour for 23 years.
Last night, President Obama committed to using his executive authority to advance the minimum wage by issuing an order requiring that workers on new federal services contracts be paid at least $10.10 an hour, “because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you shouldn’t have to live in poverty.” And he called on business leaders and state and local governments to do what they can to raise wages, too. But he also recognized that only an act of Congress can ensure that the minimum wage is raised for all workers across the country. Read more »
Yesterday, as President Obama visited an early learning center in Decatur, Georgia, the White House released a fact sheet with more details about the early education proposal the President announced in his State of the Union address. Under the President’s comprehensive plan, the federal government and states would work together to increase access high-quality early learning opportunities for children from birth to age five through expansion of voluntary home visiting programs, prekindergarten, Early Head Start, child care, and full-day kindergarten.
The President proposes to provide funding to states to help them make prekindergarten available to all four-year-olds in families with incomes below 200 percent of poverty ($39,060 a year for a family of three). The federal government would offer incentives for states to provide prekindergarten to middle-income families as well. Prekindergarten programs would have to meet a set of quality standards, including having qualified teachers paid comparably to K-12 teachers, small class sizes and low child-teacher ratios, and comprehensive health and other support services. The programs could be provided in a range of settings, from schools to child care centers to other community-based programs, as is currently the case for many state-funded prekindergarten programs. Read more »
On Tuesday, President Obama laid out an important economic agenda for women and families in his State of the Union address — expanding early education opportunities, advancing fair tax and budget policies, increasing the federal minimum wage, and passing both the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Violence Against Women Act.
This is a full and impressive agenda for President Obama's second term. But we're up for the challenge and we hope you are, too!
Expanding Early Education Opportunities — President Obama's early childhood initiative would expand access to critical early learning opportunities for millions of preschool age and young children across the country. This would help many low- and middle-income women and their families who are struggling to afford the early learning opportunities that put their children on a path to success.
Advancing Fair Tax and Budget Policies — President Obama called on Congress to pass a budget that replaces reckless cuts with smart savings and wise investments in our future. This is especially important to women, because millions of hard-working women are struggling to lift their families out of poverty and cuts in funding for public services have cost women hundreds of thousands of jobs. We also need a tax system that fairly raises the revenue required to make these wise investments and stave off deep cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other programs women and their families count on.
Today is kind of a big deal for advocates pushing for a higher minimum wage (myself included). As you may have heard, in his State of the Union address last night, President Obama called for raising the minimum wage and indexing it to keep pace with inflation – and did so eloquently, I might add:
"We know our economy is stronger when we reward an honest day’s work with honest wages. But today, a full-time worker making the minimum wage earns $14,500 a year. Even with the tax relief we’ve put in place, a family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong. …
Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. This single step would raise the incomes of millions of working families. …For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets. In fact, working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on."
And there’s another reason today is important in the minimum wage fight: February 13 is 2.13 – and $2.13 is the minimum hourly cash wage that millions of tipped workers have been paid since 1991. (Though President Obama didn’t mention the tipped minimum wage in his remarks, the White House affirms that it should be increased along with the regular minimum wage.) Today, tipped workers from across the country convened in Washington, DC to call for the fair wages they have been denied for far too long. Read more »
“So tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every single child in America.”
In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, the President called for making prekindergarten available to all children through a federal-state partnership. He made a compelling case for this investment in early education, noting the benefits for children, parents, and our nation’s economy. He explained how early education could help children succeed in school and in life. He talked about the importance of helping parents struggling with the high costs of preschool. And he discussed his proposal as a key part of building the strong workforce we need for our future economic prosperity.
The President demonstrated his commitment to early education not only by mentioning it in his State of the Union address, but also by inviting Susan Bumgarner, an early childhood educator from Oklahoma—a state that makes prekindergarten available to all four-year-olds—to be a guest of the First Lady during the address. Susan Bumgarner is one of the many early education teachers (most of whom are women) across our country who are helping our children grow and learn so they are ready for school.
We are excited about this proposal and about working to make it a reality for children and families. We look forward to hearing more details, as there are many questions about exactly what form it will take and how it will work. For example: What role will states play in making prekindergarten available? Read more »
It’s that time of the year again: the State of the Union address is Tuesday night. (You thought I was going for Valentine’s Day, right? Not today, at least.)
This time around, NWLC has put together a special Bingo card filled with issues that we hope President Obama will speak about – and a few fun items we think we might see during the speech! We’d love it if you’d play along with us.
Step 2: sign on to Twitter or Facebook between 8:30-9:00pm ET Tuesday night – and make sure you’re following us! Here are our Facebook profile and Twitter profile. Keep an eye on each for our posts on the State of the Union. On Facebook, we’ll have an entire thread dedicated to speech watching – so come join us and chat in the comments! On Twitter, we’ll be chatting using the hashtag #NWLCSOTU.