Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Tuesday August 26th, 2014, 4:46pm

New #WEmatter Twitter Campaign Amplifies Women's Economic Security Woes

Organizations and individuals across the country are taking to social media on Tuesday as part of a new campaign to promote policies designed to strengthen the economic security of women and families.

The launch of the social media movement coincides with Women's Equality Day, which marks the anniversary of women winning the right to vote on August 26, 1920. 

Those participating in the campaign are organizing under the hashtag "WEmatter" on Twitter and other social media outlets.

The social media campaign is meant to amplify the national conversation around issues involving economic, gender and racial justice. A goal of the #WEmatter movement is to highlight the need for policies that would, among other things, provide access to paid family and sick leave, fair pay and affordable child care.

"This is a broad-based response to what we've seen as growing momentum over the last months and years in support of public policies that address these critical issues for families," said Vicki Shabo, vice president at the National Partnership for Women & Families, one of the many organizations behind the #WEmatter campaign. "We're optimistic that this is going to cause public officials and traditional media to sit up and take notice, and that's a critical first step in bringing the policy changes that we need." 

The campaign is also an "attempt to remind lawmakers that, 'Hey, we're people out here, and we matter,'" Shabo added. "These issues are really important, and it's time that these become a focal point of attention for policy makers as they are crafting agendas and taking actions that matter to people."

The #WEmatter movement will also call attention to Illinois legislation approved today by Gov. Pat Quinn that will guarantee the right to reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers in the state.

"We'll be tweeting about that with the hashtag as well, which shows that policy change is possible," Shabo said. "In fact, outside of Washington, some of these policy proposals that we're talking about are not mired in partisanship," but are instead seen as bipartisan, common-sense solutions.

In addition to the National Partnership for Women & Families, other organizations leading the #WEmatter effort include AFSCME, Color of Change, Mi Familia Vota, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the National Employment Law Project, and OUR Walmart, to name just a few. Some businesses and lawmakers are also taking part in the #WEmatter discussion, Shabo said, adding that she hopes the social media movement will continue in the weeks and months ahead.

Maria Myotte, national communications coordinator for Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United), issued the following statement to Progress Illinois about why the organization is participating in the #WEmatter campaign:

The #WEmatter campaign matters to ROC because the restaurant industry is the largest benefactor of the two-tiered wage system in which there's a subminimum wage for tipped workers (as low as $2.13 an hour - the federal rate since 1991) and a regular minimum wage for everyone else. More than 70% of people earning a subminimum wage and living off tips are women. As a result of living off tips, women are far more likely to encounter sexual harassment in the restaurant industry than anywhere else. In fact, the EEOC has targeted the restaurant industry as the single largest source of sexual harassment charges filed by women, a rate five times higher than the general female workforce. Numerous members have told us about being groped on the job by customers, dealing with unwanted sexual advances, and putting up with mistreatment from supervisors to get assigned "good" shifts. 
The White House has been bringing attention to the need to raise the minimum wage, and even the tipped minimum wage, but ROC wants all restaurant workers to have access to one, fair minimum wage. The two-tiered wage system discriminates against women, lets employers get away with having customers pay the majority of their employees' wages, and perpetuates sexual harassment. 

The fact that the U.S. is the only country with this two-tiered wage system, and has had one for so long with such an abysmally low tipped minimum wage, means we have to consistently tell our elected officials that #WEmatter.

Here's a round up of some of the tweets today:

Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, executive director of MomsRising, said the #WEmatter campaign is important because "America is just starting to wake up to the fact that women are 50 percent of the labor force for the first time in history, but our public policies have not caught up to that reality."

"It's time to catch our public policies up to modern reality," she added. "We are hoping that we help elected officials see that women are more than 50 percent of the electorate and that our contributions to our nation are very important, and that we also need to update our outdated family and economic security policies in order to help our families and our nation thrive."

Rowe-Finkbeiner noted that 81 percent of American women have a child by the time they are 44 years-old. Having a baby, she said, is a "leading cause of poverty spells and being a mom is a greater predictor of wage and hiring discrimination than being a woman."

U.S. women without kids make 90 cents for every dollar that a man earns, she pointed out. On the other hand, women with kids make 73 cents to a man's dollar, while single moms earn about 63 cents.

"Studies show that when we pass economic security policies like access to paid family leave, access to affordable child care, access to paid sick days, we actually lower the wage gap between moms and non-moms, and thus between women and men," Rowe-Finkbeiner said. "This is really about boosting our economy and our families and opening doors for women to thrive."


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