Category Archives: News

AAUW CA Positions on Ballot Measures for the November 4, 2014 Election

There are two ways a measure can be placed on the ballot:

  • The Legislature has the ability to place constitutional amendments, bond measures, and proposed changes in law on the ballot.
  • Any California voter can put an initiative or a referendum on the ballot by following the “How to Qualify an Initiative Process” as described on the California Secretary of State website.

A statewide ballot measure can be approved by a majority vote of the people.

For the November 4, 2014 Election, six propositions have qualified for the ballot. The AAUW CA Public Policy Committee has studied the ballot measures in the context of the approved AAUW CA Public Policy Priorities – 2013-2015, and has taken positions on four. AAUW CA recommends that members study the detailed Voter Information pamphlet with pros and cons, soon to be mailed to registered voters, as well as read the full text of the propositions on the Secretary of State website, http://vig.cdn.sos.ca.gov/2014/general/pdf/

Proposition 1: Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014

Under existing law, various measures have been approved by the voters in past elections to provide funds for water supply and protection facilities and flood control, but not all authorized bonds have been sold. Put on the ballot by the California Legislature, this measure, if passed, would authorize the sale of $7,120,000,000 in state bonds, and reallocate $425,000,000 of unissued bonds to finance the purpose of water quality, supply and infrastructure improvements.

Safeguarding California’s supply of clean and safe water for homes, businesses and farms is an essential responsibility of government and critical to protecting the quality of life for all Californians. Every Californian should have access to clean, safe, and reliable drinking water. This measure provides funding to implement the three objectives of the California Water Action Plan which are more reliable water supplies, the restoration of important species and habitat, and a more resilient and sustainable managed water infrastructure. It will also enable investment in expanding groundwater storage. It is “tunnel neutral” and provides no funding for the proposed tunnels in the San Joaquin Delta region. This measure provides a comprehensive and fiscally responsible approach to addressing the varied challenges facing California’s water resources.

This initiative is consistent with AAUW’s Public Policy Priorities promoting the economic, social, and physical well- being of all persons. AAUW CA supports the passage of this initiative.

Proposition 2: State Budget. Budget Stabilization Account. Legislative Constitutional Amendment

Senate Bill 867 (Chapter 186, 2014) was signed by the Governor on August 11, 2014; changing the proposition number of this measure from 44 to 2.
Proposition 58 passed in 2004 required reserves to be set aside in the CA General Fund for economic uncertainties. However, no funds are currently set aside because the governor can declare a budget emergency and waive the “set asides” of 3% of the general fund revenues or a cap of $8 million or 5%, whichever is greater, into a Budget Stabilization Account (BSA). Then 50% of these annual transfers must be used to pay off Economic Recovery Bonds.

Proposition 2 requires the state to spend minimum amount each year to pay down specified debts. It creates a Public School System Stabilization Account (PSSSA) which is funded by a transfer of capital gains-related tax funds in excess of 8% of the general fund revenues. It creates rules about forecasting estimates of revenues and expenditures for 3 fiscal years with 1.5% annual deposit of general fund revenues and taxes from capital gains in excess of 8%, and changes rules for taking money out of the BSA. Funds would be appropriated when state support for K-14 education exceeds the allocated revenues and resources. School districts will be limited in the amount of reserves that can be kept at the local level.

While theoretically the PSSSA is a positive step for education, an analysis by Ed Source (of which AAUW CA was a founding partner) states the PSSSA would not likely be funded until the end of the decade. With this degree of uncertainty, AAUW CA remains neutral on this proposition.\

Proposition 45: Healthcare Insurance. Rate Changes. Initiative Statute

If passed by voters, this initiative would require the Insurance Commissioner’s approval before a health insurer could change its rates or anything else affecting the charges associated with health insurance. It provides for public notice, disclosure, and hearing, and subsequent judicial review, and exempts employer large group health plans.
If an appointed Insurance Commissioner is given the power to approve “the change of rates or anything else affecting the charges associated with health insurance”, concentrating this power in a single individual could have significant, negative ramifications. The commissioner could undermine key components of the Affordable Care Act, making quality affordable healthcare inaccessible for many. Insurers could withdraw their plans from the exchange if their rates are rejected by the state and lead to fewer affordable, quality plans from which consumers could choose. Passage of this initiative could cause a number of unique, unintended consequences creating barriers to coverage, confuse consumers, and possibly increase out-of-pocket costs for low-and moderate-income families enrolled in Covered California.
The ballot measure creates multiple, conflicting review processes and lengthy delays that undermine Covered California’s ability to negotiate lower health insurance rates and coverage on behalf of California consumers.
AAUW’s Public Policy Priorities promote “quality affordable and accessible health care” for all. This proposition holds no commitment to meeting this assurance, thus AAUW CA recommends an oppose position on Proposition 45.

Proposition 46: Drug and Alcohol Testing of Doctors. Medical Negligence Lawsuits. Initiative Statute

Proposition 46 would require drug and alcohol testing of doctors and reporting of positive tests to the California Medical Board. It would also require the California Medical Board to suspend a doctor with a positive test and to take disciplinary action if the doctor was impaired while on duty. Health care practitioners would be required to report any doctor suspected of drug or alcohol impairment or medical negligence. It would require health care practitioners to consult state prescription drug history database before prescribing certain controlled substances. Finally, it would increase the cap on pain and suffering damages in medical negligence lawsuits from $250,000 to over $1 million, reflecting inflation.

Raising the cap on noneconomic damages would likely increase overall health care spending in California (both governmental and nongovernmental) by: (1) increasing direct medical malpractice costs and (2) changing the amount and types of health care services provided. The increased awards in medical lawsuits would likely be passed on to the consumer and would therefore increase the costs of health care. It is likely that some physicians would leave California if their malpractice insurance costs rise, thus decreasing access by consumers. Also there are concerns that the state prescription drug history database is inadequate for the scope of record-keeping required by this initiative.
Recommendation: Because AAUW supports access to quality, affordable health, it opposes this initiative and recommends a NO vote.

Proposition 47: Criminal Sentences. Misdemeanor Penalties. Initiative Statute

The initiative would reduce the penalty for most nonviolent crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor. Specifically, the initiative would mandate misdemeanors instead of felonies for “non-serious, non-violent crimes,” such as petty theft and drug possession, unless the defendant has prior convictions for violent and serious crimes.
It would permit re-sentencing for anyone currently serving a prison sentence for any of the offenses that the initiative lists as misdemeanors. About 10,000 inmates would be eligible for resentencing, according to the Californians for Safety and Justice group. Safeguards in this initiative include requiring a “thorough review” of criminal history and risk assessment of any individuals before resentencing to ensure that they do not pose a risk to the public.

This proposition would create a Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund. The fund would receive appropriations based on savings accrued by the state during the fiscal year, as compared to the previous fiscal year, due to the initiative’s implementation. Estimates range from $150 million to $250 million per year. Funds from the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund would be distributed as follows: 25% to the Department of Education, 10% to the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board, and 65% to the Board of State and Community Correction. These funds will be applied to the above for k-12 schools for truancy etc.; mental health and drug treatment programs; and crime victims programs.

Basic to all AAUW’s public policy efforts is the understanding that true equity requires a balance between the right of the individual and the needs of the community. AAUW CA recommends a support position on this initiative.

Proposition 48: Indian Gaming Compacts. Referendum

AAUW CA did not study this initiative, as it is not related to the AAUW CA Public Policy Priorities.

Be sure to vote on November 4, 2014!

Message from Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo

Congresswoman Anna G Eshoo

Congresswoman Anna G Eshoo

Dear Friends,

March is National Women’s History Month, a time to celebrate the contributions women have made to our country and a time to rededicate ourselves to advancing women and girls in our society. I recently co-hosted a forum with the American Association of University Women (AAUW) of California and the AAUW San Jose Branch at San Jose Community College on a new economic agenda for women and their families: When Women Succeed, America Succeeds. Millions of women and their families in our country are living on the brink—fighting for fair pay, battling limited access to affordable child care, and trying to balance work with life’s curve balls. This economic agenda will help those women and their families achieve the economic security every American deserves.

To illustrate the hurdles American women contend with on a day-to-day basis, I invited two constituents to the forum who shared their personal stories. Esther Peralez-Dieckmann, the Director of the Office of Women’s Policy for Santa Clara County, is deeply familiar with the challenges that women in our region face. But her personal story as a survivor of domestic violence and how she has met economic security challenges since were especially moving. Suzanne Doty, Chair of the Santa Clara County Commission on the Status of Women, shared her story about an aspect of the women’s economic agenda that is talked about with less frequency – the need for enhanced support for women entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Esther and Suzanne’s stories are part of a common chorus among millions of other American women.

One in three people in our country live with this kind of stress, struggle, and anxiety every day. More than 100 million Americans either live near the brink of poverty or churn in and out of it, and nearly 70 percent of them are women and children.

With a record number of women in the workforce, wage discrimination hurts the majority of American families, both in terms of their economic security today and their retirement security tomorrow. American women are approximately half of all workers in our country, but the average woman continues to be paid 77 cents for every dollar the average man earns. The average African American woman earns only 64 cents and the average Latina only 55 cents compared to white men. That means fewer resources to pay the mortgage, send kids to college, or have a decent retirement. The Institute of Women’s Policy Research found that wage disparity will cost women anywhere from $400,000 to $2 million over a lifetime of lost wages.

Women are nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers in our country, and more than 70 percent of low-wage workers go without any paid sick days. And 40 percent of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income.

The women’s economic agenda will enable women to achieve economic security, raise wages for women and their families, and allow working parents to support and care for their families. This includes paycheck fairness; investment in job training and educational opportunities; support for women entrepreneurs; paid sick, family and medical leave; and adequate funding and promotion of child care programs. In practical terms, this will mean families won’t have to choose between a paycheck and caring for their sick child or parent. No longer will women have to decide between food on the table and paying rent. And they won’t be thrown into crisis mode when the rent goes up or if they have to pay a parking ticket.

The women’s economic agenda is not just an idea for improving quality of life. It comes with the full force of actions being taken in Congress. I’ve teamed up with the Democratic women in the House to introduce a package of legislation that aims to accomplish the goals of the agenda. Whether it’s equal pay for equal work, enhancing work and family balance, or promoting access to affordable and high quality child care, we stand fully committed to see that the goals of this agenda become the laws of our country.

By advancing these issues as a whole, we can ensure a better future for America’s families, the growth of America’s economy, and strengthen the middle class. Women play an important role in our society. By recognizing and promoting this, we have the power to put into practice solutions that will help women and families reach the economic security every American deserves.

Sincerely,

Anna G. Eshoo

Member of Congress

Key Cases Coming to the Attention of the Supreme Court

A new term has just started for the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). AAUW is watching closely, because many of our fundamental rights and liberties are protected by Supreme Court decisions, and are often the last, best hope for women who have experienced discrimination in education, employment and health care.

 

The Supreme Court — nine justices appointed by the President and ratified by Congress — hears appeals from Federal Circuit Courts or State Supreme Courts, and their decisions are final.  AAUW supports the appointment of judges who will uphold our Constitutional values of liberty, equality and justice for all. We closely monitor their decisions with the concern that the clock is not turned back on decades of progress for women and girls.

 

Several of the cases the SCOTUS may hear this term are related to AAUW’s public policy priorities regarding Affirmative Action, reproductive rights, and the separation of church and state.  For some of these, AAUW joined an amicus (friend of the court) brief arguing the ruling’s constitutionality. Here are some of the key cases:

 

McCullen v. Coakley:

Anti-choice activists challenged a Massachusetts law designed to protect patients at reproductive healthcare clinics from intimidation and harassment.  They argue that the law, which creates a 35-foot buffer zone around reproductive healthcare clinics, violates their free-speech rights. The First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Massachusetts law, but the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case on appeal.  AAUW joined an amicus (friend of the court) brief arguing that the law is constitutional.

 

Cline v. Oklahoma Coalition for Reproductive Justice:

In 2011, Oklahoma passed a law that prevented doctors from administering drugs used to end pregnancy in any manner that deviated from the FDA label, even though the FDA label was significantly outdated and best medical practices allowed for off-label uses.

Reproductive justice activists feel that this is just another law purporting to be about “good health care,” but is really intended to make it as difficult as possible for clinics and doctors to perform a legal procedure. The Oklahoma Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional. This case is on hold pending more information. But, since AAUW strongly supports rights and access to care, we will be watching its progress.

 

Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action: 

Anti-affirmative action advocates in Michigan proposed a ballot initiative (Proposal 2) that would ban Affirmative Action in the state.  The ballot initiative passed and created Section 26 of the Michigan constitution, which bars any consideration of race, ethnicity, or gender in public university admissions. Unlike previous cases, which concerned a challenge to the constitutionality of a particular university’s Affirmative Action program, the question in Schuette is whether a state may amend its constitution to ban Affirmative Action altogether. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals declared the ban unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case on October 15 and is in deliberation. AAUW signed on to an amicus brief urging the Court to declare the amendment unconstitutional.

 

Town of Greece v. Galloway: In this case, the Supreme Court will take up the question of legislative prayer for the first time in thirty years.  Although the Court has declared legislative prayer constitutional in previous cases, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals declared the legislative prayers at issue in Galloway to be unconstitutional because they were largely Christian prayers presided over by Christian clergy.

 

Contraceptive Coverage:  Across the country, a number of for-profit business owners filed lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employee health insurance plans cover reproductive healthcare, including contraception. The business owners argue that they are morally or religiously opposed to the use of contraception and that therefore the ACA violates their constitutional right to freedom of religion or, in some of the suits, their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Supreme Court has not yet agreed to hear any of the cases, but it is currently considering several appeals and is likely to hear at least one of them this term because the Federal Courts of Appeal are split over the question. AAUW signed several amicus briefs in different circuits, arguing that for-profit business owners should not be exempt from providing healthcare coverage to their female employees.

 

For more information about SCOTUS, visit: http://www.supremecourt.gov/

 

To follow cases related to AAUW public policy priorities, go to: http://www.aauw.org/2013/11/01/scotus-preview/

November Update

Democracy Begins at Home

Do you recall that old bumper sticker “Think Globally, Act Locally”? It’s time to look to our own communities and carefully commit to the people who plan and run our local governments. USA begins on Main Street, in cities big and small, rich or poor. At a time when the voice of the people can be blocked or obscured at the national level by a government shutdown like the one we endured in October, your vote still speaks volumes in your hometown—but you must cast it. Please, mark your calendars. The next Election Day is November 5.

Obama Nominates Woman to Lead Federal Reserve

Janet Yellen has been nominated by the President to lead the U.S. Federal Reserve. If confirmed by the Senate, Yellen would be the first woman to serve in this role and is one of the most qualified nominees for the position. She currently serves as vice chair of the Federal Reserve and has previously headed the San Francisco Federal Reserve and the Council of Economic Advisors.

AAUW Leans In on Government Shutdown

After the federal judiciary announced that it would have to cut back court operations after October 17 if the shutdown persists, citizens were outraged to learn that families of fallen soldiers would be unable to receive death benefits due to the shutdown. After private donors offered to pay the death benefits to families—and hundreds of people signed an AAUW petition on the issue—the House and Senate passed legislation to reinstate the payments, and President Obama signed the legislation into law.

CA Governor Signs AAUW-Supported Bills

The hard work of AAUW-California paid off when Governor Jerry Brown signed two of the bills they supported. The first bill, SB 770, expands the definition of family for whom a worker can take paid leave to include a seriously ill sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or parent-in-law. The second bill, SB 138, protects the personal and sensitive health information of individuals covered under another person’s health insurance policy like a partner, spouse, or parent.

AAUW Executive Director Speaks Out in TPM

Linda Hallman published an op-ed on October 2 in Talking Points Memo about the work that still needs to be done to decrease the 23 percent gender pay gap.

Health Care Reform Is Happening

October 1, 2013 was the first day of open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act. People can now begin to enroll in health insurance through the state exchanges, with coverage beginning January 1, 2014. As an organization, AAUW believes that everyone deserves access to quality, affordable, and accessible health care. With the launch of open enrollment under the ACA, more women and their families than ever before will have access to that right.

The House of Representatives Pulls National Science Laureate Bill

The bill would have established a science laureate to serve as a role model and help to educate and inspire our next generation—including young girls—to pursue careers in STEM fields. Read more on AAUW’s blog.

“Beijing Plus 20” Hillary Clinton’s New Foundation Initiative

At the annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting at the end of September, Clinton introduced an initiative that will review the progress of women’s rights worldwide and encourage the full and equal participation of women. As a Strategic Partner of CGI, AAUW provides a gender lens for key issues facing women and girls around the world.

September Update

The Family & Medical Leave Act turns 20. On August 5, we celebrated another national milestone. Twenty years ago on that day, and for the first time ever, parents, spouses, sons and daughters were guaranteed access to unpaid, job-protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In the last two decades, FMLA has been used more than 100 million times, and has changed the culture of our nation and its workplaces, working to ensure that people can meet the demands of both job and family. The FMLA was always intended as a first step. But today, 40 percent of the workforce still isn’t covered by its protections and many cannot afford to take the unpaid leave it guarantees. Too many people risk losing essential income — or even their jobs — when they need to care for their health or the health of their families. Women, who so often are essential breadwinners and caregivers for their families, are hit especially hard. Tell your reps in Congress that it’s time for a national paid leave program.

House of Representatives Passes Student Loan Bill on July 31. The Smarter Solutions for Students Act (H.R. 1911) passed with bipartisan support and a vote of 392-31, and is now headed to the President’s desk. The act keeps current student loan interest rates low at the expense of a future increase. However, AAUW opposed HR 1911, citing it as shortsighted, and pledges to work with Congress to improve terms for students before rates increase.

House Democrats Launch Women’s Economic Agenda.  In early July, following a meeting with AAUW Executive Director Linda Hallman & VP of Government Relations Lisa Maatz, CAE, and leaders of several other women’s groups, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other House Democrats launched a new Women’s Economic Agenda outlining their policy priorities for improving women’s lives. The agenda’s approach is three-pronged: improving wages and pay, expanding paid leave and other work/life balance policies, and increasing access to and affordability of child care. Check out AAUW’s Facebook page for pictures from that launch event.

The US Supreme Court was abuzz in June. The Court issued several decisions concerning AAUW priority issues. Here is a recap of the major ones:

  • Fisher v. The University of Texas: The Court upheld use of race and ethnicity as one of many considerations appropriate in school admissions, but only when that policy is carefully crafted and narrowly tailored to meet the school’s interest in a diverse student body. The SC returned the case to the lower court and ordered the judges to re-hear the case using a stricter standard. Nationwide, the decision has no overall effect on affirmative action policies.
  • U.S. v. Windsor: The Court declared Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) — which only recognizes spouses of the opposite sex — unconstitutional. The ruling has already positively impactedavailability of medical and housing benefits to same-sex couples in the military, and is expected to have broader implications for all couples and their families down the road.
  • Hollingsworth v. Perry: In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that petitioners seeking to uphold California’s ban on same-sex marriage did not have standing to appeal the case. The court’s decision means that the lower court’s decision stands, and same-sex marriage will again be legal in California. How this ruling will apply to other states with similar bans is still unclear.
  • Vance v. Ball State University: The Court redefined the meaning of “supervisor” in a way that frees employers from responsibility for sexual harassment committed by employees who do not have the power to hire or fire.
  • Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder: The Court struck down the section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that enables the federal government to monitor states with a history of voter discrimination more closely than other states.

Learn more about pending legislation, add your voice to the conversation, and help shape the current public policy decisions that impact women and their families. Visit the Two-Minute Activist tool.

Congress Marches Backwards

June 10, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, the keystone law around fair pay. Unfortunately, this outdated and loophole-ridden legislation cannot protect and guarantee gender pay equity in private industry.

To shore up the effectiveness of the Equal Pay Act, Congress needs to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 377/S. 84), but progress has been repeatedly stalled in the House of Representatives, who refuse to bring the issue to a vote. The latest effort to force a floor vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act was recently defeated in the House by a 230-198 vote. A large group of our elected representatives are clearly more invested in playing to private enterprise over ensuring the equal rights of American citizens. And so, we must continue to push forward, even as Congress insists on pushing back.

As a more immediate step to addressing pay equity, AAUW is urging President Obama to implement part of the Paycheck Fairness Act through an executive order that would ban federal contractors from firing or retaliating against workers who share salary information or ask about wage practices.

Says AAUW Executive Director, Linda D. Hallman, “Women were an important voting bloc in the 2012 election, and pay inequity was a key rallying point, but our policies are still frozen in time. Equal Pay Day must not be another occasion for politicians to use the same rhetoric with no follow-through. AAUW expects action, and our country expects action.”

Tell the President to act on equal pay. Go to the AAUW website and add your voice.

Student Loan Interest Rates Set to Double

Nearly one in five American households has student loan debt, and in 2011, the average graduating college senior owed $26,600. Moreover, the gender wage gap makes student loan debt an even larger burden for women, who on average, earn 18% less than their male counterparts just one year out of college!

The interest rate on subsidized Stafford student loans is set to double on July 1, unless Congress acts to prevent the scheduled rise from 3.4  to 6.8 percent. Students receiving subsidized Stafford loans are the ones who are in most need of financial assistance to attend college – and are least able to afford paying twice as much in interest.

Contact Congress and urge them to prevent this interest rate increase AND ask your representative in the House to ­oppose the “Smarter Solutions for Students Act” (H.R. 1911). To learn more about pending legislation, and to contact your rep, go to the AAUW website and become a Two-Minute Activist.

Pregnancy discrimination claims on the rise

Thirty-five years ago, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act became a groundbreaking law that made pregnancy discrimination in the workplace illegal. Unfortunately, many private sector employers have found ways to circumvent the law, and pregnant women are still being denied reasonable job accommodations or forced out of their job. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act — reintroduced in the Senate on May 14 — would do much to protect workers and their families from this shameful discrimination. To learn more about this reintroduced legislation, and to share in the conversation, go to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act Community page on the AAUW website

Gender Pay Equity Is Subject to Economic Trends

On March 31, Leslie McCall, sociology professor and fellow at the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, published an article in the New York Times that defined key factors underlying the gender pay gap. I found this article to be helpful in framing the compensation inequities women face in America. Here’s a synopsis:

Examining women’s and men’s earnings over time and at different pay levels can provide a context for understanding how the overall economy is impacting and contributing to the gap. It can also show how the reasons for the gap vary importantly by pay level.

Here are some key factors impacting private sector and non-union compensation with regard to gender pay equity.

·         Women are more likely than men to work minimum-wage jobs. This means that the gender pay gap will increase when the minimum wage decreases, and vice versa.

·         The minimum wage is currently about 30 percent less in inflation-adjusted dollars than it was at its height in 1968. Therefore, raising and indexing the minimum wage to inflation will immediately reduce the average pay gap between women and men with low earnings.

·         The gender pay gap has been reduced somewhat due to stagnation of men’s median earnings between the 1970s and the present, while women’s median earnings have increased. But recently, both women’s and men’s median full-time earnings began to stagnate, and are no higher today than they were a decade ago.

·         The highly paid have been spared: their earnings have climbed steadily since the 1980s. But, this is also where the gender pay gap is currently the widest. 

·         For the subset of women earning high pay who are likely to be married to men earning high pay, having a family is not typically a barrier to pay equity the way it is for women lower down the earnings ladder.

notworthless

Public Policy Priorities Survey

AAUW CA Public Policy Priorities Survey is available at www.aauw-ca.org (on the main page of our state website).

All members are urged to complete and submit their responses by December 1, 2012. Your responses are important, as they will help us determine our public policy priorities. Issues important to women are more apparent after this week’s election and we need to know where AAUW CA should be directing its public policy resources for the next two years.

Message from National AAUW

From AAUW National:
On behalf of the Board of Directors, AAUW staff, and the entire AAUW community, we express our sincere concern for members, their families, and their friends who have been affected, directly and indirectly, by Hurricane Sandy. Our thoughts are with those who have lost homes, property, businesses, and places of employment and perhaps even a loved one. Many of you have inquired about AAUW staff, and we are happy to report that, other than a few inconveniences such as power outages and detoured commuter routes, all are well.

We also thank the women and men who placed themselves in harm’s way throughout the storm to respond to emergencies. Our first responders are selfless individuals who often perform thankless jobs, and members who perform these duties should especially be recognized.

Please be assured that we will continue to stay connected through our shared membership — and our commitment to the AAUW mission. Although many directly affected by this natural disaster still do not have communication, we welcome and encourage any updates from you as recovery efforts continue. We are particularly sensitive to the impact on women and children, who may be especially affected by this natural disaster. Your efforts to share our message with fellow members and supporters in your state are appreciated.

Our thoughts remain with you and all AAUW members nationwide who have been affected by Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath.

Sincerely,

Linda D. Hallman, CAE
AAUW Executive Director

The White House speaks with AAUW

By Susan Beyerle, Public Policy Chair

On Thursday, August 16, I had the pleasure of participating in an AAUW conference call with four key members from the White House’s Office of Public Engagement and Council on Women & Girls. Over 100 AAUW Branch Presidents and Policy Chairs from throughout the country were on the call to hear comments from representatives from the Executive Branch about policy issues crucial to us in AAUW.

First up was Steve Robinson, Special Assistant at the White House Domestic Policy Council. Steve underscored the President’s advocacy role in enlarging the number of career opportunities – especially for females – in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). According to Steve, STEM careers currently account for less than 25% of all jobs in the USA, yet on average pay 33% more in earnings. The President recognizes this largely untapped opportunity to expand our work force in the fields that historically have represented one of America’s greatest strengths: innovation. Consistent with this goal is the vision of a national shift from America being a consumer of things to an inventor/creator of things. The message that our women and girls are equally able and should be encouraged to enter STEM careers is implicit in this initiative. A national K-12 effort has been launched to improve and reform public education in STEM studies by investing in and encouraging women and minorities to pursue these fields, as well as building a “master STEM teacher corps” to make sure every student has at least one great STEM teacher to inspire them. The goal is to bring 100,000 new STEM teachers into public schools over the next decade, and to identify and elevate the best STEM teachers in order to engage more students in these important areas.

Tina Tchen, Executive Director of the Council on Women and Girls and Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, praised the work of AAUW and stressed the importance of our role to “punch through the Washington Bubble” by continuing to spread information to our communities about developments in women’s policy issues and legislation as we become informed.

Lynn Rosenthal, White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, spoke about the “journey” of the Violence Against Women Act. Originally passed in 1994, this Act underscores President Obama’s own commitment to addressing domestic violence, sexual harassment, and other forms of gender-based violence. She called AAUW’s work on behalf of and reporting about the Violence Against Women Act “The Gold Standard.” (To read about AAUW’s advocacy regarding the VAWA and other important gender equity issues, go to the AAUW Action Fund page on our national website.) Earlier this year, the Senate passed a strong 2012 renewal of VAWA through a bipartisan vote. However, it came up against conservative opposition and weakened in the House where legal protections against battered immigrants were rolled back, and also gave legislative victories to “men’s rights” groups that effectively take us back to the day when domestic violence was considered a private matter between a man and wife. Congress went home without resolution, and the critical renewal of the bill is now stalled. The Senate version of the bill needs our advocacy now, because it is the most comprehensive and reflects AAUW goals. Ms. Rosenthal implored every AAUW member, friends and contacts to contact their Congressional representatives NOW to push through the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act.

Additionally, Ms. Rosenthal reported that last week the President signed into action a project to address gender-based violence on both a national and a global basis. A terrific public service announcement is airing, entitled, “One is too many” that speaks the message to men that it’s never OK to hit women. To learn more and view the PSA, go to www.whitehouse.gov

And finally, Catherine Oakar from the Office of Policy Advisors spoke about the great leaps of progress in ensuring affordable healthcare access for all American women due to the Affordable Care Act. Effective on August 1 of this year, she stressed that this new law is an important milestone for women in particular, as it will make it illegal to deny coverage to women with certain “female-centric” pre-existing conditions such as breast cancer, and will also provide free preventative screening for diabetes and other diseases, and affordable contraceptive services for all. She urges us to discuss with our healthcare providers and insurers the new options now available to women as a result of the ACA, and to go to www.healthcare.gov for the best up-to-date information.