Denver Women's Commission
Federal Checklist - August 2002
August 30, 2002
Prepared for Colorado Woman News
Washington, D.C. is very far away. Decisions made there can be hard to follow, particularly if they do not get any media coverage. What are some of the issues women should contact their national representatives about?
1. Pension reform—Two years ago one of the biggest women’ issues being discussed by Congress was the partial privatization of social security. Now many workers whose 401ks have turned to dust are thankful they at least will have Social Security. On a near unanimous vote, Congress passed some consumer protections against some of the lying and deceptions that have been occurring in the stock market. But for women there are additional concerns.
Women over 65 are half as likely as men to receive income from pensions, including their husband’s. Those who do, get, on average, less than half of men’s. Part-time and short-term workers are frequently excluded from pension coverage. These workers are much more likely to be women.
More companies are turning to 401ks instead of traditional pensions. Under these, a worker’s retirement earnings are based on their own investment earnings, rather than a set amount per month. But 64% of men and 73% of women spend, rather than “roll over” these retirement accounts when they leave a job. Furthermore, workers can decide to spend rather save without a spouse’s consent. In traditional pensions, spouses must agree in writing if the couple chooses a higher benefit that ends with a worker’s death, rather than continues with a surviving spouse.
2. Pay Equity-- Jobs traditionally held by women continue to pay less than jobs traditionally held by men. This accounts for part of the pension gap as well. Under President Bush, the Department of Labor stopped its Equal Pay Initiative, which encouraged companies to work on this issue.
3.Reproductive Health – One of President Clinton’s first acts was to remove the global “Gag Rule”, which denied family planning monies worldwide to organizations that would even mention abortion to a pregnant woman. One of President Bush’s first acts was to reinstate the Gag Rule. Plus he went one further and pulled $34. million in family planning money from the United Nations Population Fund, despite federal reports showing that the money never went to enforce China’s single child policy. He redirected to the US controlled US Agency for Internal Development. It works in far fewer countries.
Congress has also been busy trying to erode reproductive health. A complaint letter from 27 anti-choice congressmembers to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson prompted the National Cancer Institute to remove a fact sheet from their website, documenting the lack of evidence that abortion causes breast cancer.
4. CEDAW - 170 other nations have approved the Convention on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. After 22 years, the US Senate finally passed the treaty out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But it needs 2/3 of Senators to be approved. It is difficult for the U.S. to lecture Afghanistan and other countries about women’s rights until it signs on to this document addressing women’s inequality. Details are at www.womenstreaty.org
5. Welfare Reauthorization and Child Care Funding – The House passed their version which ups work requirements to 40 hour per week for 70% of participants. U.S. moms average less than 40 hours per week, yet this will be required of the poorest, single parents. The Senate will soon be considering a more realistic proposal.
Child Care is still dramatically underfunded, serving only one out of every 7 eligible low-income children. Current funding is at $4.8 billion. The House approved a $1 billion increase over 5 years. The Current Senate proposal would increase it by 5.5 billion over 5 years, which is still inadequate. Representatives may argue fiscal restraint. But by comparison, future already approved tax cuts will cost the government about 135 billion per year. A war on Iraq would cost at least $35 billion. .
To find out what bills Congress is considering on an issue, simply go to http://thomas.loc.gov and enter your topic of interest. To express your concerns go to www.house.gov/writerep and enter your zip code. It automatically sets you up to email your Representatives. (With the anthrax scare, emails are better then regular mail). Or phone them:
Senator Wayne Allard: 202-224-5941; http://allard.senate.gov
Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell: 202-224-5852; http://campbell.senate.gov
Representative Diana DeGette: 202-225-4431
Representative Mark Udall: 202-225-2161
Representative Scott McInnis: 202-225-4761
Representative Bob Schaffer: 202-225-4676
Representative Joel Hefley: 202 225-4422
Representative Tom Tancredo: 202-225-7882
You can also communicate your federal concerns to candidates running against them. For contact information go to www.vote-smart.com or call your County Clerk.