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Women Faith Leaders to Congress: Less Lip Service, More Legislation to Support Family Values

May 8, 2014, 10:06 am | Posted by Bailey Dick

Washington, DC – In the lead up to Mother’s Day, prominent women religious leaders are challenging Congress to catch up with other developed nations and pass legislation that will help strengthen families.

“The ‘pro-family’ rhetoric in Washington does not address the shameful reality that the United States lags behind most developed nations when it comes to policies that support women and families,” more than 50 Christian, Jewish and Muslim women write in a letter today to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) “It is morally unacceptable that millions of Americans still have no paid sick days, suffer from workplace discrimination because of a pregnancy and are trapped in poverty because the minimum wage is far below a living wage.”

Signatories on the letter include Bishop Mariann E. Budde, Episcopal Diocese of Washington; Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the United Methodist Church; Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby; Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Lisa Sharon Harper of Sojourners; Nancy Kaufman, CEO, National Council of Jewish Women and Ani Zonneveld, President, Muslims for Progressive Values.

The faith leaders note that nearly 40 million working Americans don’t have a single paid sick day, and urge Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which would allow workers in businesses with 15 employees or more to earn up to seven job-protected paid sick days each year. “Americans who barely get by from paycheck to paycheck should not be forced to make a cruel choice between keeping their jobs and the health of their families,” they write.

Only 12 percent of U.S. workers have access to paid family medical leave through their employees, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. The Family Act, legislation that would create a national family leave and medical program, would, among other things, allow employees to care for a new child, address a serious health issue of not only themselves, but that of a parent or spouse.

“Pregnant women are particularly at risk in an economy that only values efficiency and profit,” the faith leaders write. “Even in 2012, for some women having a baby means losing a job or a promotion.” They urge Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would prevent employers from forcing pregnant women out of the workplace and ensure that employers provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women.

Noting that women are only paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to a man and that women represent nearly two-thirds of minimum wage-workers, the leaders urge elected officials to raise the minimum wage and “support legislative efforts that would alleviate these unconscionable inequities.”

The complete letter with signatories can be found below and here.

 

Dear Speaker Boehner and Sen. Reid,

As families prepare to celebrate Mother’s Day, we are mindful of the love and sacrifices that mothers make to strengthen our families and our country. However, we know that expressing our gratitude with flowers and kind words is not enough. The “pro-family” rhetoric in Washington does not address the shameful reality that the United States lags behind most developed nations when it comes to policies that support women and families.

As Christian, Jewish and Muslim women, we are inspired by diverse faith traditions that share a conviction that public policies must serve the dignity of the human person, support the family and promote the common good. It is morally unacceptable that millions of Americans still have no paid leave and sick days, suffer from workplace discrimination because of a pregnancy and are trapped in poverty because the minimum wage is far below a living wage.

Families and workplaces suffer when a mother or other family members can’t take time off to care for themselves, a sick child or an ailing parent. Nearly 40 million working Americans don’t have a single paid sick day. Americans who barely get by from paycheck to paycheck should not be forced to make a cruel choice between keeping their jobs and the health of their families. We urge you to support the Healthy Families Act, which would allow workers in businesses with 15 or more employees to earn up to seven job-protected paid sick days each year to recover from illness, get preventative care or care for a sick family member.

Pregnant women are particularly at risk in an economy that only values efficiency and profit. Even in 2014, for some women having a baby means losing a job or a promotion. While the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 protects employees from discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth or pregnancy-related conditions, pregnant workers still face unjust treatment in the workplace. This is especially true for pregnant women in low-wage jobs that are disproportionately made up of women of color and immigrants. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would prevent employers from forcing pregnant women out of the workplace and make sure employers provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant women. 

Women now make up almost half the workforce, but a gender pay gap means they are paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to men. In addition, women represent nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers. A woman working full time at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour earns just $14,500 – more than $4,000 below the poverty line for a family of three. Women also make up 72 percent of tipped workers who have not seen an increase in the tipped minimum wage of $2.13 per hour in more than two decades. We urge you to support legislative efforts that would alleviate these unconscionable inequities and enable women to provide for their families.

It’s time to move from lofty rhetoric about family values to responsible policies that help women and families.

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