Photo by Republican Conference/Flickr
Several months ago, the GOP announced that it would begin a concerted outreach program to groups of voters, including women, who consistently vote for Democrats by large margins. So last week, just in time for Mother’s Day, House Republicans offered American mothers the “Working Families Flexibility Act.” The more appropriately titled “More Work, Less Pay Act” would essentially eliminate overtime pay, putting working families on a collision course with rising prices at the grocery store and mounting costs of childcare, rent, and education.
That is not an agenda that works for working women. It is little wonder that 60 percent of women say Washington is not addressing the issues that are important to them. As one women in Denver told us a few months ago, “Oftentimes I worked 5 jobs, never saw the kids. They raised themselves. A majority of politicians don’t understand.”
While Washington politicians focus on solving crises of their own invention and dreaming up new ways to squeeze working people, our research has found that working women are intensely concerned about their own pocketbook economies—concerns that somehow eluded supporters of the “More Work, Less Pay Act.”
Our most recent Democracy Corps survey found clear evidence that women want Washington to advance a serious working women’s economic agenda. This agenda must address the cost of childcare, invest in education and job training, expand paid maternity and sick leave, and finally put resources toward enforcing pay equity.
If Republicans want to put forward policies that will actually work for working women, it should look more like this:
Jobs. Any working women’s agenda must include a plan for good jobs that provide good incomes, employment security, family leave, and health and retirement benefits. Pay equity and raising the minimum wage are necessarily part of this agenda; the Economic Policy Institute estimates that women comprise 56 percent of those who would be directly affected by an increase in the minimum wage. The “good jobs” agenda must also include job training and education to afford women the opportunity to get and keep those good jobs.
Cost of living. The working women’s agenda must address the cost of childcare. For middle-class families, the average cost of childcare is high—about 10 percent of monthly income. But for low-income families (a majority of which are headed by women), the average cost of childcare was 50 percent of monthly income in 2010. Addressing the cost of living also means expanding access to affordable healthcare, including preventive care for women.
Retirement security. Retirement security is critical for women because they live longer and because they are less likely to have jobs that provide pension and retirement benefits. Well over half (56 percent) of Medicare recipients are women. Older women are more likely than older men to pay for health care out of pocket and more likely to be low-income. For many of these women, Medicare is a necessity.