Statement: Biden’s Call to Pass Pay Equity & Paid Leave During SOTU First Steps in Creating a Stronger Economy—But More Action is Needed
March 1. 2022
For Immediate Release
Mar 1, 2022
The following is a statement from Noreen Farrell, Executive Director of Equal Rights Advocates:
We were encouraged to hear President Biden urge Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and create a national paid family and medical leave program during his State of the Union Address. These are crucial steps in expanding equity in an economy that has treated women as second-class citizens for too long.
But we must not stop there. The COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating consequences on women workers and caregivers, especially those from BIPOC, immigrant, LGBTQ+ and other marginalized communities. Reproductive health care rights, so critical to the economic security of women and families, are under attack. The power of voters to change their circumstances is weakening in the face of 500 anti-voter bills introduced in 48 states in 2021.
We need federal and executive action—this year—to continue the fight for economic justice, protect and expand reproductive rights, and strengthen our democracy. We’d like to see the Biden Administration and Congress act on:
- Economic Justice: The pandemic exposed long standing structures hindering women workers, especially those of color who are experiencing the greatest economic precarity. In addition to a national paid leave program and overhauls to the broader care economy, women need equal pay for equal work, one fair wage (which includes raising the minimum wage and abolishment of the submininim wage for tipped workers), protection from caregiver discrimination, safety from harassment and health hazards, and access to higher paid jobs. Women and other workers need protections to organize collectively. It is incumbent upon our government to make these rights real for hardworking family breadwinners in communities of color.
- Democracy: While the war in Ukraine has shone a spotlight on the threat to democracy in the world, we cannot lose the urgency to protect it on our own soil. There should be no free pass given to elected officials who are actively working to dismantle our democracy at home. Rather, we urge this administration to do whatever it takes to defend and expand access to the ballot box. If trust in our system of democracy disintegrates, so does our hope in progressive social justice for the least of us. We cannot be a beacon of democracy overseas when we are disenfranchising our own people.
President Biden’s nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court gives us hope for our democracy, as the high court is our last line of defense—if it is compromised by partisan politics and sympathy for authoritarianism, our democracy will crumble. We believe it is important to have people on the bench with knowledge of how the real world actually works in disparate ways for marginalized people and how the law presents a path toward inclusion and justice for those who are often left outside of it. Judge Jackson brings that to the court.
- Reproductive Justice: Healthcare justice, specifically access to abortion, is economic justice. Brookings Institute studies show abortion access has “increased women’s education, labor force participation, occupational prestige, and earnings and that all these effects were particularly large for Black women.” With the U.S. Supreme Court’s green light, states across the country now threaten 50 years of progress since Roe v. Wade was decided to protected abortion access. Without immediate federal intervention, women will experience untenable “choices” that imperil their families’ capacity to thrive. If Roe v. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court, we urge continued Congressional efforts to pass legislative protections, as well as the full weight of executive action, to ensure that one’s right to reproductive freedoms do not depend on zip code. The Women’s Health Protection Act, the bill sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee, and defeated by filibuster this week, provides an excellent template for renewed efforts.
Women, and women of color in particular, must be able to emerge from this pandemic stronger than we were entering it. If we are to build a stronger economy moving forward, gender, racial, and economic justice must guide our policy priorities for workers, voters, and families. The time to act is now.