Victory: Philadelphia’s Earned Paid Sick Days in Effect Today

Philadelphia’s earned paid sick leave ordinance goes into effect today. That means that if you work more than 40 hours per year in the city of Philadelphia, you qualify to earn paid or unpaid sick time to care for yourself or a family member. The law also makes sure that your boss can’t retaliate against you if you use your right to take a sick day. This victory is a sterling example of what we can accomplish when we all work together. As Ellen Bravo of Family Values at Work wrote, “[Passing paid sick leave in Philadelphia had] everything to do with smart organizing, grit, and a transformed political landscape.” In particular, we applaud the tireless advocacy of Marianne Bellesorte of PathwaysPA for her leadership on the issue. When Women’s Law Project staff attorney Amal Bass testified for paid sick days in front of City Council, she specifically addressed the impact of the lack of earned paid sick leave on working women. From our testimony: At the WLP, a large portion of our work involves efforts to improve the health, safety, and economic security of women. We have seen how the absence of paid leave exacerbates the work-family imbalance that women bear disproportionately as the primary caregivers of their families. A paid leave ordinance like the one we are discussing today would alleviate many of the burdens on these caregivers. It would protect the health of women and their families, address public health concerns, and promote efficiency and stability for the city’s businesses. Women are disproportionately the primary caregivers in modern families and increasingly, the primary breadwinners, too. In a recent survey, 47 percent of women who stayed home to care for a sick child reported losing pay, a particularly difficult burden in tough economic times. Some workers lose their jobs. This new law will help all Philadelphians, and especially working mothers. Meanwhile, as you may have heard, some lawmakers in the Pennsylvania Legislature have introduced a pre-emption bill with a retroactive amendment in an attempt to strip Philadelphia of this progress, and ensure no other Pennsylvanians earn paid sick time. The bill, SB 333, is currently sitting in the Labor & Industry Committee of the Pennsylvania House. Governor Wolf has stated he would veto the bill if necessary. We will keep you posted. To learn more about how paid sick time works, check out this flyer. The City of Philadelphia is responsible for regulating and enforcing this law, and will make final decisions on its interpretation. To contact the city, email paidsickleave@phila.gov. ...

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WLP Announces the Campaign for Women’s Health

Women’s Law Project is proud to announce founding membership in the Campaign for Women’s Health, a new statewide coalition formed to change the conversation about women’s health care in Pennsylvania. For years now in Harrisburg, the phrase ‘women’s health’ has been code for restricting access to safe and legal abortion for poor and working women. The result of substituting sound public health policy for buzzword politics is clear: Pennsylvania consistently ranks abysmally low for women’s health and economic security across all indicators. Most recently, a national analysis conducted the Institute for Women’s Policy Researchranked Pennsylvania 31st for women’s health & well-being, 31st for reproductive rights, and 23rd for employment & earnings. In the bigger picture, the United States ranks dead last in the developed world–50th–in maternal mortality–and Pennsylvania is in the bottom half of that dubious ranking. On average, pregnant women and newborns in Philadelphia fare worse than in the rest of the state and country. Maternal and infant mortality is severely stratified by race: African American women are three times as likely as white women to die as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. While alarming, these statistics shouldn’t be surprising: Studies show the number of abortion restrictions is directly correlated with poor women’s health and higher risk of maternal death. In other words, this is a preventable crisis—and can be turned around. That’s why we’re proud to join with nearly two dozen other Pennsylvania organizations in the Campaign for Women’s Health. Our current focus is supporting the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health. The Agenda is a legislative package of bills that proposes evidence-based policy solutions to real problems faced by women and families in Pennsylvania. The first and second waves were introduced last session; the Women’s Health Caucus announced the third wave of bills this afternoon at the Capitol. Bills in the Agenda for Women’s Health are sponsored and introduced by members of the Women’s Health Caucus. The Caucus is a bipartisan, pro-choice group of lawmakers from both chambers of the Pennsylvania Legislature committed to taking pro-active steps to turn the status of women’s health and economic security around. We applaud the Caucus for their continued commitment to common-sense policy solutions. Some of the bills proposed within the Pennsylvania Agenda for Women’s Health include:   Reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) was enacted 36 years ago. Yet, even today, pregnancy discrimination remains a persistent and growing problem. Some employers still force women to choose between a healthy pregnancy and employment by refusing to make temporary, minor accommodations, like allowing her to sit on a stool behind a register or carry a water bottle. The Pennsylvania Pregnant...

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Cast Your Online Vote in Our “Say What?” Contest

“[Ebola] may be the great attitude adjustment that I believe is coming. Ebola could solve America’s problems with atheism, homosexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography and abortion.” -Radio reporter Rick Wiles, August 2014 *** “In our age of sexual equality, why drunk female students are almost never characterized as irresponsible jerks is a question I leave to the feminists. But it is precisely those irresponsible women that the brothers must be trained to identify and protect against, because all it takes is one to bring an entire fraternity system down.” -Forbes magazine contributor Bill Frezza, September 2014 *** “Would that be considered boobs on the ground, or no?” -Fox News Host Eric Bolling, September 2014 ***   What is the “Say What? Most Witless Words About Women” contest and award? It’s the special time of year when the Women’s Law Project invites you, dear reader, upstanding citizen, trusty connoisseur of absurdly sexist snubs, to cast your vote for the most witless words about women uttered by real people, in public, in the last year. Of course, you can cast your vote in person at this Friday’s Rights to Realities party in Pittsburgh, the annual gala thrown by our Western Pennsylvania office. But you can vote online, too. The online voting is open until Friday at noon! The “winner” will be announced at the Rights to Realities party. Then after the party, we’ll send him or her an award to let them know what you think of their witless words about women. Vote here!...

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Rights to Realities: Come to WLP of Western PA’s Party on May 1

In 2002, the Women’s Law Project, the only public interest law firm in Pennsylvania devoted to women’s rights, opened an office in Pittsburgh so we could more directly serve and support the women of Western Pennsylvania.  We are proud of all the work we’ve been able to accomplish in the region over the past thirteen years to advance and protect women’s and girls’ rights. We hope that you can help sustain our work by coming to our party on May 1st at 5:30 p.m. at the Fairmont Pittsburgh’s Grand Ballroom. We call our annual party “Rights to Realities” because that is what we try to do—translate, leverage and improve the law so that it benefits the working people, and especially women, of Pennsylvania. So often, women’s rights exist on paper or in a textbook, but are not protected in practice. We litigate high-impact cases to clarify and advance women’s rights, advocate for evidence-based policy and legislative solutions, and educate constituents on legal issues that affect women’s health and economic security. Because the Women’s Law Project is a non-profit organization and does not charge for its legal services, we need your support in order to help sustain our work and keep making rights become realities. We have been working incredibly hard this year to promote and protect women’s health and economic security, and we do it all  on private foundation grants and the generosity of individual supporters like you. We’ve been busy planning an amazing party. Guests can look forward to several fantastic silent and live-auction items (to be auctioned off by our entertaining and charismatic celebrity guest auctioneer, former Pennsylvania state Representative Erin Molchany), live jazz music, delicious food and drinks, and of course the opportunity to mingle and celebrate with over 200 fellow women’s rights supporters. We’ll also announce the much-anticipated “winner” of our annual “Say What?” contest. For our “Say What?” contest, we collect unbelievably sexist things said about women—by real people, in public—and you vote for the worst. After we count up the votes, we send the “winner” a little something to let them know what the good people of Pennsylvania think of their views of women. Cast a vote here. You can register for the party here or calling us at (412) 281-2892, and please invite your friends on Facebook. We look forward to celebrating with you on May...

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Let’s Not Wait Until 2072 For Equal Pay in PA

April 14 is Equal Pay Day. Why do we need a whole day to draw attention to the problem—and possible solutions—to gender-based wage discrimination? Because if we do nothing other than wait,Pennsylvania women will not earn equal pay until the year 2072. That’s 57 years from now. As recently noted on The Daily Show we expect to use a 3-D printer to create a fake human heart before we expect to achieve equal pay. Though some progress was made narrowing the gender pay gap between men and women following the adoption of the Equal Pay Act in the 1963, the progress has stalled. As Women’s Law Project Managing Attorney Terry L. Fromson testified before the House Democratic Policy Committee last year, the ratio of women’s pay to men’s pay narrowed by only 1.7 percent between 2004 and 2013. The most recent analysis of equal pay in Pennsylvania shows that on average women in Pennsylvania earn just 76% of what men in the state earn, though that number varies bylocation within the state, race and ethnicity. The gender wage gap widens significantly more for women of color, with Latinas faring the worst. The good news: there are reasonable policy solutions. In Pennsylvania, lawmakers like Rep. Brian Sims are proposing to strengthen the Pennsylvania Equal Pay Act by closing loopholes so that employers cannot get away with paying men more for the same work and banning wage secrecy policies. Most women suffering economic discrimination by being paid less than her male counterpart do not know it until after they leave the job—or ever. President Obama acknowledged the role of wage secrecy in perpetuating the gender wage gap last year when he signed an executive order last year prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees who talked about their salaries. “Pay secrecy fosters discrimination and we should not tolerate it,” the president said, “not in federal contracting or anywhere else.” A 2011 survey from the IWPR found that about half of workers “report that the discussion of wage and salary information is either discouraged or prohibited and/or could lead to punishment.” Unsurprisingly, the same study found employers prefer to keep it that way. Want to learn more? Terry L. Fromson and a panel of experts including a representative from the U.S. Department of Labor will be speaking about equal pay and other policy issues affecting women in Pennsylvania at the Library of Philadelphia at 2pm on Tuesday, April 14. Click here for more details and to register, and follow the conversation at...

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Philadelphia Premiere of “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry”

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, a new full-length feature documentary that explores the early era of the U.S. feminist movement, premieres in Philadelphia tonight. Following the 7pm screening at the Ritz Bourse, Access Matters President Melissa Weiler Gerber will host a Q&A with the film director, Mary Dore. Watch the trailer here. “An overdue documentary flashback to the U.S. women’s liberation movement, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry arrives at a time when, despite notable gains, the clock seems to be turning backward on many of the issues — reproductive rights, sexual harassment, equal pay, etc. — that ‘libbers’ fought more than 40-odd years ago,” notes Variety scribe Dennis Harvey. True enough. The last four years have brought an unprecedented spike in state laws that curtail women’s access—meaning, as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg likes to point out, all women except rich women—to safe and legal abortion services. Here in Pennsylvania, only thirteen healthcare facilities still provide surgical abortion care for 67 counties, and yet we still have lawmakers trying to pass sham bills to shut down more. The history of women fighting for their rights is a big, long story to tell. By honing in on the years 1966 to 1971, Dore illuminates an era when organizing a group of women around a kitchen table to share experiences with rape, harassment and unwanted pregnancy was a revolutionary act. The film isn’t merely a time capsule, though; it carefully threads the early era to the modern movement. “We’ve had high school feminist groups show up at screenings, which is so great, that is wonderful,” Mary Dore told me during a recent conversation. “A lot of people asking for advice and help because I think it’s hard for them to figure out how to organize and who to align with. There are always so many excellent [websites] and young organizers online. That’s important for people to know, that young women are doing all kinds of things.” Before modern street theater like SlutWalk, there was W.I.T.C.H. (Women’s International Conspiracy from Hell!), women who ran around in Halloween witches costumes to throw hexes on the wretched. Talking with Dore reminds me of the observation frequently made online: The women’s movement didn’t begin the moment you realized it exists. “When you talk about the women’s movement and you act like it began when women had birth control, and all these things that had huge changes for women, you’re missing the cultural context,” explains Dore. “We particularly [explore] the civil rights movement, because many of the women who started the women’s movement in the 1960s came from the civil rights movement… they were also being treated as second-class citizens.” This film has been a long time coming, both as cultural product and for...

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King v Burwell: What’s at stake for women in PA?

By Tara Murtha, WLP Staff   Today, the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell, the latest attempt to gut the Affordable Care Act. King v. Burwell is a lawsuit brought by Virginia residents who ultimately hope to strip premium tax credits, also called a subsidy, from people who buy their health insurance through one of the 37 states with federally run exchanges. Pennsylvania is one such state. The stakes could not be higher, according to the Center for American Progress. “The sudden elimination of a key component of the ACA would cause substantial disruptions to the U.S. health care system. Moreover, it would take away health insurance coverage from more than 8 million Americans and cause premiums to spike for many more.” Here in Pennsylvania, more than 400,000 would lose subsidy if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs. Of those, approximately 329,000 would lose health insurance coverage altogether. The impact of the decision disproportionately affects women. In Pennsylvania, 221,740 women are at risk of losing their subsidy, according to National Women’s Law Center. Of those women, 31,430 women are African-American, 22,490 women are Latinas, 9,650 are Asian and 430 are Native American. Background: What’s the latest attack about? The heart of the case rests of four words. Specifically, it relies on an ACA provision that specifies tax credits are available to individuals enrolled in “exchanges established by the State.” The ACA, however, empowered states whose governors refused to run their own exchanges, like former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, to defer to the federal government to run their state exchange. So the plaintiffs argue that  “exchanges established by the State” means that only individuals and families in those 13 states and the District of Columbia that have established their own health insurance exchanges can receive tax credits—and not individuals and families in the 37 states that rely on federally-facilitated exchanges, like Pennsylvania. In short, the plaintiffs are attempting to exploit the letter of the law to subvert its spirit. Though the challenge is being brought by Virginia residents, the legal theory fueling the case derives from a 2012 paper conservative legal scholar Jonathan Adler and political analyst Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute. As Nicholas Bagley recently explained, conservatives are attempting to deprive millions of Americans of health insurance coverage based on “snippets of text in a statutory provision” while ignoring the entire context of the rest of the Affordable Care Act. It is willful ignorance as strategic political maneuvering. Or as the New York Times recently called it, “a marvel of reverse-engineered legal absurdity.” Watch this space for updates on the...

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PA Trying to Kill Philadelphia’s Earned Paid Sick Days

Last month, Philadelphia became the twentieth city to pass earned sick day legislation. Today, Pennsylvania lawmakers moved to undo that victory by not only banning every other municipality across the state from mandating earned paid sick leave, but adding an amendment to SB333 specifying the law, if implemented, would retroactively take effect January 1. Philadelphia passed its ordinance on February 12.   Why We Need Paid Sick Days Women’s Law Project is proud to have been a part of a broad-based coalition that advocated for the common-sense measure by submitting formal testimony to Philadelphia City Council. Earned paid sick days is, after all, a women’s issue. National Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that low-income workers, who are disproportionately women and minorities, have less access to paid sick leave than other workers. Women are disproportionately the primary caregivers in modern families and increasingly, the primary breadwinners too. In a recent survey, 47 percent of women who stayed home to care for a sick child reported losing pay, a particularly difficult burden in tough economic times. Workers without paid sick leave are less likely to receive the healthcare they need in general, according to the CDC.   More facts about earned paid sick days from the Department of Labor: * Workers who had access to paid sick days were 28 percent less likely to be injured on the job *Offering even one paid “flu day” reduced flu transmission by 25 percent *Another study concluded that there could have been 5 million fewer individuals contracting the H1N1 virus during the 2009 pandemic if workers had access to paid sick days   As earned paid sick leave gains momentum around the country, Senator Patty Murray and Representative Rosa DeLauro reintroduced the federal Healthy Families Act. “I believe that in 30 years, we will look back at this as the moment we began to turn the corner,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, “when a sleeper issue finally began to awaken and when grass roots momentum began to gather steam and roll toward a broad national consensus.” That is, except here in Pennsylvania–if this bill is allowed to pass. In the memo circulated seeking co-sponsorship for the bill, Senator John Eichelberger cites no research. He simply declared his intent to legislate “clear state preemption of local mandated leave ordinances” by arguing “uniformity is important.” Uniformity is important: The United States is the only industrialized country without mandatory paid sick days.   Don’t let Pennsylvania roll backwards on this issue as the rest of the country moves forward. Urge your representatives to say no to Senate Bill 333.   WomenVotePA is the action arm of Women’s...

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Class Action Lawsuit Filed over Pennsylvania Medicaid Cuts

By Tara Murtha, WomenVote PA, WLP Staff – Two big problems with Pennsylvania Medicaid emerged yesterday [December 22]. The problems aren’t with Medicaid per se, but with the chaos-riddled transition from traditional Medicaid to Governor Corbett’s controversial, non-expansion alternative. To further complicate matters, Governor-Elect Tom Wolf, who promised to expand Medicaid as intended under the Affordable Care Act, takes office next month, and benefit changes are scheduled to take place January 1. Under the Affordable Care Act, states are encouraged to expand access to Medicaid coverage, with the federal government picking up the tab through 2016 and then paying no less than 90 percent on a permanent basis. The background: Ever since the Supreme Court decided that states can refuse to expand Medicaid, the situation here in Pennsylvania been a saga fueled by partisan politics–at the expense of the health and well-being of more than 500,000 low-income residents. As every state bordering Pennsylvania expanded Medicaid, Pennsylvania has become “the island of the uninsured.” In order to obtain the federal dollars without actually expanding Medicaid, the Corbett administration assembled an alternative plan called Healthy Pennsylvania, called Healthy PA for short. The plan was “met with harsh criticism by many and for good reason.” As predicted by experts and advocates all along, the federal government rejected the majority of proposals within HealthyPA, such as tethering work requirements to health benefits. The rejection shouldn’t have been a surprise to the Corbett Administration either, since some of the proposals had already been refused in other states even before Pennsylvania submitted this proposal. In August, after nearly a year of negotiation, the federal government approved a stripped-down version of HealthyPA. Then in November, Corbett became the first Pennsylvania governor in 60 years to lose re-election when people of the Commonwealth voted Tom Wolf into office. Governor-Elect Tom Wolf ran on a promise to expand traditional Medicaid. Meanwhile, 500,000 residents are still left in the gap created by Corbett’s refusal to expand last year. Now, as Governor Corbett gets ready to leave the governor’s mansion, the whole system is a mess. On December 19th, Pennlive.com reported that healthcare providers serving low-income mentally ill and drug-addicted Pennsylvanians state stopped receiving reimbursement for services because of a “glitch” in the transition process. From PennLive.com: Deb Beck, president of the Drug and Alcohol Service Providers Organization of Pennsylvania, said the problem is creating a crisis for providers, particularly small nonprofits, which are being forced to decide whether to swallow the cost of care or deny treatment. “It’s just incredible,” Beck said earlier this week. “We have families who desperately want help, kids who want help and access. This has...

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Don’t Just Celebrate Right To Vote – Use It

It’s hard to believe women only gained the right to vote 93 years ago today. That’s when the 19th Amendment – which prohibits any U.S. citizen from being denied the right to vote – was ratified. The demand by American women for the right to vote emerged during the antislavery movement of the 1830s and ’40s. Efforts gained momentum in 1848 when …

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