Tag Archives: wage discrimination

Strong Women, Strong Stances

Just a quickie to give respect to some of the women in our California caucus.

Barbara Boxer, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is hammering home a simple message on offshore drilling:

Boxer said she had zero confidence in recent Senate Republican assurances that increased drilling will not lead to environmental damage from spills.

She pointed to recent comments from Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), which were recently echoed by Sen. John McCain, the GOP presumptive presidential nominee, who said that “not a drop of oil was spilled” due to the Hurricane Katrina. In fact, the U.S. Minerals Management Service reported that the storm was blamed for no less than 146 oil spills from drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.

“These are lies, just bald-faced lies,” Boxer said. “You want to know about my conclusion about $4 a gallon gas? Just divide eight years by two oilmen in the White House and you have your $4 a gallon.”

And here’s Rep. Hilda Solis, who has been leading the fight from the Congress against Arnold’s wage cuts, explaining the Paycheck Fairness Act on the blog Latina Lista (I give here extreme credit for using the brownosphere as a tool):

The House of Representatives made significant progress in closing the wage gap for all women last Thursday, especially women of color, by passing H.R. 1338, the Paycheck Fairness Act. Even though the Equal Pay Act was first signed into law in 45 years ago, women today earn just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. For women of color, the pay disparities are even worse.

Latinas earn on average 57 cents to every dollar that a man earns. African-American women earn just 68 cents to every dollar that a man earns.

These unacceptably low wage disparities for women are finally being address by Congress. The Paycheck Fairness Act will help empower women workers with the skills and knowledge they need to achieve pay equity with their male colleagues.

Even Speaker Pelosi is doing yeoman work for taking the heat on resisting a drilling vote while letting things roll over into the next Congress when the landscape will be more favorable.  

Good for our strong women leaders.  We need more of them.

…And You Will Know Him By The Trail Of Dead (Bills)

I saw Bill Maher on Friday in an interview with former Mexican President Vicente Fox, lamenting that Bill Clinton and Arnold Schwarzenegger wouldn’t be able to face off as Presidential candidates due to Constitutional violations.  “Isn’t that sad,” he said.  For all his conceits as a free thinker, Maher represents a kind of baseline Hollywood groupthink when it comes to Arnold, reading the headlines and the magazine covers but never bothering to uncover the whole story.  That story can be easily divined from this weekend’s veto massacre.  In addition to stopping the California DREAM Act, he vetoed needed legislation for the state’s migrant farm workers, allowing them to organize through a “card check” system.  He even disabled a bill that would have added a sunset clause to the card check system, making it ever harder for them to organize and support themselves and their families.  Here’s another bill that went down the drain:

On Saturday, another bill was vetoed, AB 377, by Assemblymember Juan Arambula (D-Fresno). It would have required an employer who is a farm labor contractor to disclose in the itemized statement furnished to employees up to five names and addresses of the legal entities that secured the employer’s services.

According to the sponsor of the bill, the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation more than 40,000 California farms grow fruits and vegetables on almost four million acres in this state, so it is not surprising that a 2006 survey of Central Valley farm workers found that 70% could not identify the name of the farm they were working on.

The same survey found that 56% had not been paid the minimum wage when working on a piece rate; 31% had not been paid all the overtime they were owed; and that 42% had unexplained deductions made from their pay. Between 60% and 80% of harvest work is done by labor contractors. Without being able to readily identify the farm who hired the contractor, enforcement actions against the contractor are unlikely to either make the worker whole for wages owed or to have any deterrent effect at all against a grower who shares legal responsibility for the contractor’s labor law violations.

So while Governor Schwarzenegger told the hundreds of farm workers who were at the Capitol in September that he was supportive of their goals, in the end, he vetoed these bills and sided with agribusiness.

Indeed, this is part of a persistent pattern by the Governor to make life harder for working families while protecting the corporate interests that helped get him elected.  Far from a governor of the people, he is simply a corporatist who has the backs of the elite.  Because we don’t have a functioning political press, this contempt for the average Californian will probably not make it too far off the blogs and insider political circles.  But they have real-world consequences that people will only discover when they are put in the situation that legislation could have covered, and they aren’t likely to connect the dots.  A sampling of the pro-worker legislation that was vetoed:

• SB 549 (Corbett)-this bill would have protected the job of a worker taking time off to attend to the funeral of a family member.

• SB 727 (Kuehl)-this bill provided that employees covered by family temporary disability insurance (FTDI) could take the leave to care for a grandparent, siblings, grandchildren and parent-in-law.

• AB 537 (Swanson)-this bill expanded the definition of family under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to allow eligible workers to take job-protected leave to care for a seriously ill adult child, sibling, grandchild, or parent in law.

• AB 435 (Brownley)-this bill would have addressed harsh limitation periods on bringing certain wage discrimination claims. These claims are frequently brought by working women who have been underpaid relative to their male counterparts, and many of these women are struggling to raise kids in single parent situations.

• AB 1636 (Mendoza)-this bill would have expedited a job retraining voucher to disabled workers unable to return to their former jobs; workers such as these are struggling to adapt to replace the income needed for the family to survive.

• SB 936 (Perata)-this bill would have increased the benefits paid to permanently disabled workers over a 3 year period. Since 2004 these workers have seen their benefits slashed by 50% or more according to studies by University of California researchers. At the same time, insurer profits have exceeded all benefits paid to or on behalf of disabled workers; it’s a concept that is clearly not family-friendly. The families and kids of disabled workers suffer as they struggle to keep pace with the financial devastation of injuries.

AB 435 is the state version of the Lily Ledbetter Pay Act, attempting to remedy a horrible Supreme Court decision from earlier in the year.  So Arnold is putting himself squarely in the position of Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Smuel Alito.  This is our post-partisan “leader.”

Furthermore, he vetoed meaningful health care reform in AB 8, and put forth flawed legislation of his own that has no chance of coming out of the legislature, partially financed by the stupid, shortsighted practice of leasing the lottery to private interests.

I’d like to say that there’s an “on the other hand,” a couple bills Arnold allowed through that provide aid or comfort to the working class.  But on these issues, he comes down squarely on the side of his corporate buddies.  It feels like spitting into the wind to keep noting this.  Maybe someday Bill Maher won’t have a big-time TV show, he’ll be working for his own retirement, and he’ll realize that he’s been screwed by this Administration.  But I wouldn’t bet on it.

The Legislative Rush Begins

Our favorite on-the-scene Sacramento reporter Frank Russo has the first installment of what will be a wild couple weeks in the California Legislature.  The session is scheduled to end September 14, and over 700 bills are likely to be voted on between now and then, to get to the Governor’s desk for signature.  The first batch of bills have been passed out of their respective chamber; in fact, 83 bills passed in the Senate just yesterday.  Frank highlights several that came out of the Senate and the Assembly; here are a few (on the flip).

AB 1108 (Ma) Toxic Toys- This bill prohibits the use of phthalates in toys and childcare products designed for babies and children under three years of age… It now goes back to the Assembly for concurrence in the Senate Amendments.

AB 122 (Solorio) Voter intimidation- Requires elections officials to provide a copy of the provisions of law prohibiting voter intimidation and voter fraud, and the penalties to every candidate. Senator Calderon used the example of a recent Orange County election where several thousand Latinos were sent a letter warning them not to vote. It passed on a 23 to 12 vote with the support of two Republicans, Senators Maldonado and McClintock and all the opposition was from Republicans. There was no known opposition to the bill. It now goes to the Governor.

AB 976 (Calderon) Prohibits a city or county from enacting an ordinance that compels a landlord to inquire, compile, report, or disclose any information about the citizenship or immigration status of a tenant. It passed on a straight party line 22 to 12 vote.

AB 1539 Krekorian- Compassionate release for medically incapacitated inmates with terminal illnesses. This bill provides that a court shall have the discretion to resentence or recall a prisoner’s sentence when the prisoner is permanently medically incapacitated if the conditions under which the prisoner would be released do not pose a threat to public safety. It passed on a 22-16 party line vote with Democratic Senator Lou Correa the sole member of his party voting against it. It needs to go back to the Assembly for concurrence in amendments.

AB 435 (Brownley) Wage Discrimination- Requires that all employers maintain their records of wages, wage rates, job classifications, and other terms and conditions of employment for five years, and extends the statute of limitations for a civil action to collect back wages to four years, or, in the case of willful misconduct, to five years. It passed on a straight party line vote of 21 to 15 with Democratic votes. It now goes back to the Assembly for concurrence in amendments.

AB 1429 (Evans) Requires health care service plan contracts and health insurance policies that provide coverage for cervical cancer treatment or surgery to also provide coverage for a Human Papilloma virus vaccine. It passed 26 to12 with a couple of Republican votes and all the opposition was from Republicans. It needs Assembly agreement on amendments.

AB 548 (Levine) Would require managers of multi-family dwellings to provide recycling services for their buildings. This is significant because it provides a residential recycling opportunity for more than 7.1 million Californians residing in more than 2.4 million multifamily dwelling units. It passed on a largely partisan vote of 47 to 25 and goes to the Governor.

SB 490 (Alquist) Would ban foods with transfat from being sold to kindergarten-high school students on school campuses. It passed on a largely partisan 50 to 26 vote with Republicans complaining that it trampled on local school boards’ discretion and Democrats saying the state sets the rules for schools.

Some thoughts:

• I’m glad something came out of that disgusting attempt in Orange County to intimidate Hispanic voters.  Good for Asm. Solorio.

• The Krekorian bill for compassionate release is simple common sense in a time of prison crisis.  Apparently the Big Kahuna of prison reform, Sen. Gloria Romero’s bill to create an independent sentencing commission, is being negotiated with the Governor’s office so that he’ll sign it.  We’ll see what transpires.

• AB 435 is a local version of the Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act.  The Supreme Court ruled that a woman could not sue for wage discrimination because the statute of limitations had run out even though she didn’t know the extent of the wage discrimination until it was too late.

• The HPV vaccination bill should give the theocrats a jolt.  They’ve argued for some time that you can’t vaccinate and save kid’s lives because it might make them a little more promiscuous.  Showing their true priorities.

We’ll try to keep up with the major bills coming through the Legislature until the end of the session.

Celebrating Women’s Equality through Workforce Justice

Written by: Hannah-Beth Jackson

Now that the budget impasse is over (we’ll have more to say on that subject in this coming week’s update,”While California Dreams” ),we are focusing on Women’s Equality Day. This Sunday, August 26th marks the 87th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution which gave women the right to vote after a 75 year struggle. There are many ways to mark the occasion. In California, there are at least two such ways we can  ensure that victims of employment discrimination continue to have the opportunity to seek redress in the courts. For that to happen, our legislature should pass Assemblymember Julia Brownley’s AB 435 and Assemblymember Dave Jones’ AB 437  Both of these measures are pending in the California State Senate.

Brownley’s bill, AB 435, specifically extends the statute of limitiations within which women can file suits for gender-based wage discrimination. It requires that all employers maintain their records of wages, wage rates, job classifications and other terms and conditions of employment for five years, and extends the statute of limitations for a civil action to collect back wages to four years, or, in the case of willful misconduct, to five years. The current statute of limitations is two years, unless the violation is willful in which case it is three years.

The Jones bill, AB 437 is necessary because the current US Supreme Court has demonstrated a commitment to overturn, and thus destroy, many hard-fought gains for women, minorities and other “protected classes” of people in this country. One such effort occurred in May of 2007 when the Court voted, by a 5-4 majority, to overturn decades of precedent in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. In doing so, the Supreme Court severely limited workers’ ability to bring pay discrimination claims against employers who break the hard-fought laws prohibiting discriminatory compensation practices on the basis of gender, race or other prohibited criteria.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Lilly Ledbetter had waited too long to sue for pay discrimination despite the fact that she filed a complaint as soon as she received an anonymous note alerting her to the fact that her wages were less than her male counterparts.  The Court said that Ledbetter was required to file a complaint within 180 days of the pay decision, regardless of whether she had knowledge of the discrimination or not!(Note: emphasis and comment are those of this author)

In Ms. Ledbetter’s case, she had worked for Goodyear Tire for nearly twenty years. She sued the company after learning that she, the only female supervisor, was the lowest paid supervisor at the facility. She was paid 15-40% less than the male supervisors, even though she had more experience than several of her colleagues. After a jury trial, the 12 local citizens found that her employer had unlawfully discriminated against her on the basis of sex.

Regardless, the US Supreme Court ruled that she had filed the complaint too late. In her dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (the sole woman on the Court today) called on Congress to correct the Court’s new-found re-interpretation of the discrimination law. Within a month, Congress introduced federal legislation to do just that.
AB 437 is modeled after the federal legislation.

Why is this legislation needed? For the simple reason that the Ledbetter decision ignores workplace realities. Most employees who are the victims of discrimination, don’t learn about the discrimination for years into their employment. Salary information is often kept confidential. And given the latest results here in California (which are consistently felt across the nation) showing that the wage gap between rich and poor is only increasing, it is important that discrimination in employment be tackled head-on.

Here in California we have set the example for decades on workforce equity. We have led the way to snuff out bias, hardship and mistreatment of workers by greedy and biased employers. Ironically, it is many of those same corporate fat-cats, who think nothing of multi-million dollar golden parachutes for their CEO’s, who are opposed to this legislation. They don’t want to be held to standards  that insure fairness and accountability against law-breaking policies of discrimination. Examples of those opposed to these measures include the California Building Industry Association (CBIA), the big financial companies through their California Bankers Association and the Car Dealers, through their association, the California Motor Car Dealers, among the usual and predictable others who just don’t like having to be accountable to the public or the people who make their businesses run.

Who are those in support? As one would think, the folks who are committed to equal justice and fairness. Included are organizations supporting Women’s Rights, Civil Rights and Labor. This is another battle pitting those protecting the working people vs. the corporate giants seeking millions in profit and little for the people who get them there.

Times are tough enough for working families. It’s time we made sure the hard-fought protections the people have been able to achieve remain effective. And like so many other important laws, the only way we can ensure accountability is to keep the courthouse doors open to those who have been treated unfairly or unlawfully. It’s time to make sure the hard-working people of California can rely on our system of justice to make sure we are treated fairly. We’ve earned it and our Constitution, no matter how battered or bruised it is these days, entitles us to it.

And in honor of Women’s Equality Day, let us not forget that the symbol of Justice in our country is fittingly a woman, blindfolded, holding the scales of justice in her hands. And to further reinforce that image, remember that our Pledge of Allegiance contains, as its final commitment, “Liberty and Justice for all”. Let us make that the legacy of this year’s Women’s Equality celebration.