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Election 2016: A Chance to Make Change Work for Us

by Laura Reyes  |  March 10, 2016

This article was first published in the Winter 2016 edition of AFSCME Works. Click here to download the full magazine.

The 2016 elections will allow working women to push a comprehensive economic agenda that can go a long way toward closing the gender wage gap while also getting the U.S. economy back in balance.

With the help of the Economic Policy Institute and the AFL-CIO’s Raising Wages campaign, we have a 12-point platform that focuses on raising standards for working women and their families. We also have a woman in the race — Sec. Hillary Clinton, a longtime champion of working families.

AFSCME’s International Executive Board endorsed Secretary Clinton after an in-depth, member-focused process that also demanded that the candidates provide real solutions for working families, not just sweet talk. Hillary Clinton not only has detailed plans to fix our economy, but she also has experience at getting things done, working across the aisle in the Senate and across borders as Secretary of State.

What Women Want

The EPI research makes clear, however, that it’s not just women’s wages that need to come up if we’re going to close the wage gap. In fact, while women’s wages have stagnated over the last decade, men’s wages have actually fallen!

This is the dirty little secret about what appears to be some closing of the gender wage gap. Women may be doing a little better by comparison to men, but the overall family income is down. What women want is an economy that works for everyone.

Yes, we want an economy that rewards women and men equally for doing the same work, but we also want an economy that ensures that everyone who works earns a living wage — and that the very wealthy pay their fair share to get our economy back in balance.

If the gains of a growing economy had not gone disproportionately to those at the very top, and if workers’ wages overall had grown at the rate of productivity, then women’s wages would be 71.2 percent higher than they are today, EPI figures.

Raising Our Voices

What the numbers show is the need for a wholistic approach that focuses on the inequality gap as much as the gender gap, EPI says. To maximize women’s economic security, we must pursue policies that intentionally tilt bargaining power back toward low — and moderate-wage workers.

That means raising the minimum wage, but also strengthening unions. Policy makers should be encouraging more workers to join together to negotiate for better pay and working conditions. Unfortunately, not only are our current labor laws and enforcement too weak, but we are facing a Supreme Court decision this summer in a case called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association that could destroy the protections we have.

This is our time to make our case for economic justice — for all workers! This election should not be about personalities. Let’s make sure it’s about creating real change to help working families. Raising our voices can make a difference.

Next: Connecting Co-Workers in Florida
Previous: AFSCME Boosts Campaign to Raise Minimum Wage

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