Pelosi On Women’s Economic Agenda: ‘Don’t Agonize, Organize’

Nancy Pelosi has a message for the Coalition of Labor Union Women, other unionists and women nationwide who want to better themselves economically through federal legislation.

“Don’t agonize, organize,” the House Democratic leader from California says.

Pelosi issued that demand during an hour-long national conference call with 16,000 people on Jan. 29, discussing the Women’s Economic Agenda first unveiled last year.  CLUW and other women’s groups, including union allies, strongly support it.

The agenda includes enacting the Paycheck Fairness Act, to update 51-year-old federal equal pay law to put the burden of proof on employers to show why they treat women unequally, approving a paid family leave law, and increased aid for child care.

They’re all important to Victoria Sawicki, a retired Letter Carrier and CLUW vice president who joined Pelosi, Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Donna Edwards, D-Md., and other speakers.  The National Consumers League sponsored the conference call.

“We in the U.S. stand alone, only with Papua New Guinea, in not offering paid maternity leave,” Sawicki told DeLauro, author of the current unpaid family leave law (FMLA) and of the pending paid leave bill.

“We’re the richest country in the world.  If we value families, mothers and children, this is a no-brainer.  But I don’t want to wait ten years for it.  How do we do it?”

The answer, Pelosi and DeLauro said, is to agitate and organize, and also to  show that paid leave is good not just for mothers and families but for the economy.  Payroll tax deductions, averaging $1.50 per worker per week, would fund paid leave.

“People cannot take time off without a source of income,” DeLauro added.   “Our public policy has not caught up with the ways families are living today.”  Unpaid leave is an example, she said: Eight of every 10 workers eligible for it can’t afford to take it.

The paid leave bill is similar to California’s new law, giving workers 12 weeks of partial income while they stay home to care for newborns, themselves or the elderly.

Pelosi urged listeners to call or e-mail their lawmakers to demand not just their votes for the women’s economic agenda, but that they “be strong leaders, too.”

“We have to take it to the public – that there are solutions and they can be part of the solutions,” she explained.

-PAI