22 June 2011

Join Grantees in Panel on Child Care in Low-Income Communities

We know that access to affordable quality child care can be the deciding factor between self-sufficiency and welfare for many families across the US, including single-parent households and low-income families. Without affordable care for her child a single mother cannot hold down a job, pay the rent, or put food on the table. We also know that child care workers and professionals -- the people we trust to take care of our children -- are often paid a pitiable wage, have little access to workplace protections and other support services.

And now deficit cutting proposals on a national, state and local level are attacking the few services we do have, playing a numbers game with the lives and futures of our children and families.

We do not take this status quo for granted! We believe that child care is an essential service for working families and that the industry and its workers must be respected as such.

That is why the Ms. Foundation supports the work of child care advocacy groups from across the nation. Four of these groups will assemble on Monday June 27 at NYU to discuss these issues. Join the Ms. Foundation, the National Council for Research on Women, All Our Kin, Parent Voices and Childspace CDI for a panel discussion:

Advocating for Quality: Innovations in Supporting Child Care in Low-Income Communities
Child care advocates focus on two key goals: increasing access to quality care for children and families, and advancing the economic position of child care providers. The panel presents case studies of grassroots nonprofits that are simultaneously addressing both concerns in their communities, and discusses their strengths and challenges in achieving these goals.

Monday, June 27
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

1 Washington Square North
Room 112
Free and Open to the Public

Join the conversation, help keep our children, families and communities strong!

21 June 2011

Anika Rahman to Keynote Women's Leadership Forum

Ms. Foundation President and CEO Anika Rahman will speak on "Igniting Change With Global Impact: How Do We Make a Difference" at Women's Leadership in the Global Economy, the third annual Women's Leadership Forum sponsored by the Council of Urban Professionals on Tuesday, June 28 in New York City. Rahman will share her vision and strategy for championing change across critical issues facing women, including equal paying jobs, work-life balance and the need for young girls to pursue their dreams without gender limitations.

The event is for women executives at the Senior Vice President level and above. Learn more. Register online.

Answer the Supreme Court With Paycheck Fairness

The Ms. Foundation and our grantees denounce the Supreme Court ruling in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., v. Betty Dukes, et al. The ruling means thousands of women who were subject to lower wages and unequal promotion practices cannot use the courts to plead their case as a group and must file their grievances as individuals. To stop this injustice from happening again we must ensure the protections of fair pay and nondiscrimination are written into the law. The Paycheck Fairness Act will allow victims of wage discrimination to sue for damages, and requires employers to prove that any disparities in pay between men and women are job-related. That is why we and our partners at the National Women's Law Center and the National Partnership for Women & Families and many other grantees, call for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

National Women's Law Center Co-President Marcia D. Greenberger said:
Congress must do all it can to ensure that this decision does not stand, including by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act. The women of Wal-Mart -- and women everywhere -- must have a real chance to gain equal pay and a fairer workplace.
National Partnership for Women & Families Senior Advisor Judith L. Lichtman said:
The pursuit of justice for the women of Wal-Mart and women facing discrimination around the country is far from over. The Wal-Mart women will continue to challenge the company's policies in the courts, and we will continue to call on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and other measures to restore our civil rights protections.
Answer the Supreme Court with positive action. Join in calling Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

16 June 2011

This Just In: Domestic Workers Win Global Recognition!

The International Labor Organization today adopted the first ever global rule that recognizes domestic workers and sets international labor standards to protect their rights. Congratulations to Ms. Foundation grantee, the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), and their allies for this tremendous win!  We're so proud to have been a long-time supporter of this inspiring movement.

So how do wins like this take place and what do international human rights conventions mean for the people they're meant to protect? In an earlier post, NDWA Director Ai-Jen Poo helps explain the internal process and movement building that helped realize the vision of internationally recognized labor rights for domestic workers. The next step will be organizing to convince countries around the world to ratify this critical global agreement. For more details, see NDWA's press release below:

Victory at Last! Domestic Workers win Global Recognition with the Adoption of the ILO Convention for Domestic Workers

Geneva, June 16, 2011 - Today Governments, Employers and Workers of the world at the 100th International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva, Switzerland adopted the First Convention and accompanying Recommendation on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. When the vote was announced, domestic workers unfurled a banner that read “C189: Congratulations! Now for the “domestic work” of governments- RATIFY.” Support for the Convention was overwhelming, with 396 voting in favor, and only 16 voting against (all employers), with an additional 63 abstaining. The Recommendation passed with 90% approval.

Juana Flores, US worker delegate to the ILC “With the passage of this International Convention and Recommendation, I am emotional thinking of all of the domestic workers- their sweat, their hard work, the abuses they’ve endured—and I myself have lived this experience. Today, at a global level, the work of cleaning houses, caring for children, the elderly, and disabled is recognized as work-- work like any other.”

This is truly a historic event and a step forward for an estimated100 million domestic workers worldwide, primarily women.

Some governments attending the ILO have already indicated their willingness to ratify the Convention. Domestic workers from around the world will continue their organizing with efforts at the national level to ensure that governments put the contents of the Convention into the law of each country.

About the Convention: The Convention starts by recognising the “significant contribution of domestic workers to the global economy” and that this work is “undervalued and invisible, and is mainly carried out by women and girls, many of whom are migrants or members of disadvantaged communities”.

It affirms that domestic workers’ have the same fundamental rights that all workers have:
•    the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining,
•    the elimination of all forms of forced labour,
•    the effective abolition of child labour, and
•    the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.

With this Convention, there is global consensus that domestic workers must enjoy and governments are called on to ensure effective protection against all forms of abuse, harassment and violence.

About NDWA: The National Domestic Workers Alliance organizes domestic workers in the United States for respect, recognition, and labor standards. Through leadership development, strategic campaigns, and alliance building we seek to help build a powerful movement for social and global justice. www.domesticworkers.org

About IDWN: The International Domestic Workers Network (IDWN) is made up of domestic workers’ unions and associations around the world, including Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, North America, and Europe. Support organisations include International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) and Women in Informal Employment Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO). www.domesticworkerrights.org

July 12 in Washington, DC: Help Ensure Quality Care Across Generations

Every 8 seconds, an American turns 65. As more and more members of our communities age, they will need care, just as more and more workers will need quality, dignified jobs.
Please join Ms. Foundation grantees the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Jobs With Justice as they aim to transform long-term care in the United States for our loved ones, the workers who provide the care, and the families who struggle to access and afford that care.  

Join the movement at the first Care Congress and the public launch of the Caring Across Generations campaign in Washington, DC on July 12.

Register for the Care Congress before June 20 and help make sure all families have access to affordable, quality and dignified care.

What: Care Congress
When: July 12, 2011 - 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Where: The Washington Hilton - 1919 Connecticut Ave NW
Who: Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and 700 others who care

Help shape this effort! Please register for the Care Congress before June 20. Additional information is available from the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

A Personal Dispatch from Geneva: Marking a Milestone for Domestic Workers' Rights

If you have any doubt about the power of movements and movement-building then you have not met Ai-Jen Poo, the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. Over the last few weeks, the fantastic advocacy of Poo and partners, across the nation and world, for the rights of domestic workers resulted in two amazing wins: the California Assembly approved the CA Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, a critical step towards making it the second state in US with such historic legislation; and the establishment of the first international convention (a United Nations human rights document) that will help hold governments accountable for ensuring the rights of domestic workers was approved at the International Labor Conference in Geneva.

As we know, workers -- a good many of them women -- in the US are under attack every day. But the national and international success of domestic worker-led organizing highlights the power and possibility of movements for change, even amidst such challenging times. Theirs is an example of a truly inclusive, strategic movement: a movement built and sustained by a solid base of grassroots and coalition support; a movement driven by the leadership of women; a movement that will not be stymied by a political and economic climate hostile to women, workers and immigrants.

Ai-Jen Poo, who stands with such insightful and instructive grace at the forefront of this inspiring change, offered her reflections on what has ignited the success in California and Geneva, just days before the international convention was officially approved.
I’m on my way home from a week of discussion and debate about the “Decent Work for Domestic Workers” convention at the International Labor Conference in Geneva. This is the first international convention on domestic work. Getting here has been a long road, more than ten years in the making. But we are now in the final hours of the journey to gain recognition in the international arena for domestic workers.
The process [has involved] long and generally diplomatic discussion about the controversial issues that domestic workers face every day in our work: how to count hours of work for domestic workers, particularly for live-in workers; whether stand-by time (that is, when workers are expected to be immediately available in case they are needed at any moment -- whether it’s to comfort a crying child who woke up in the middle of the night or to help ease the pain of a sick family member in the early morning) should be counted as official work hours; how migrant workers should be treated by employers and by governments; what it means to treat this workforce equally or -- in the technical terminology --  “not less favorably” than other workers.  Basically, these dialogues focus on developing a basic standard for what the conditions and terms of work for domestic workers should be. 
This is a challenging process for any industry, but there are particular challenges when it comes to domestic work. For most of human history, the work of domestic workers has been invisible, hidden away in private homes. It has been considered “natural” women’s work, and it has been taken for granted. During this International Labor Organization process, governments, national trade union federations and employer groups from every nation have had to sit down and think deeply about domestic work as real work that -- like any other type of work -- deserves basic labor standards.
This process was a powerful reminder of the importance of movements: movements of workers that demand change, movements of women that promote hopeful visions for new ways in which we can relate to each other, social movements that create progressive governments that can play powerful roles in international arenas. It was the growing movement of domestic workers around the world - and our capacity to capture the imagination of trade union movements and governments internationally - that got domestic work onto the agenda at the ILO in the first place. It was also a reminder of the great acts of leadership that movements create. In particular, as I leave Geneva, I am paying tribute to the leadership of women in social movements.
Our many years of hard work organizing among domestic workers in the United States allowed us to make another significant contribution: The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights - passed by the New York State Legislature in 2010 and now being considered by the California legislature - was one of two pieces of model legislation highlighted in the process of developing the convention. The other piece of model legislation was from Uruguay, where there is also a strong and growing movement among domestic workers.
This is a moment to take in and to celebrate. Milestones like this are few and far between. Perhaps it was unusual in the history of the ILO, but my experience there is captured by the image of row after row of women worker leaders from every region of the world, following the discussion in at least eight languages, working together to champion the dignity of domestic work on an international stage. Our work is not done; we have a long road ahead. As a reminder and an inspiration, I want to share some words spoken by a worker from the Guatemalan domestic workers union after the adoption of the draft Convention, “We have broken the silence. We have yet to break our chains." As we mark our progress, we take our place in a growing global effort to transform the world of work and bring dignity to the work that makes all other work possible.
Photo: New York Times T Magazine.

14 June 2011

Weekly Round-Up: Grantees Making Waves Nationwide

We're sure, like us, you'll be inspired by the incredible activism of our grantees. Read on to see how we can work together to push for progressive change and social justice across the nation.

The National Domestic Workers Alliance was in Geneva last week for the 100th International Labor Conference of the United Nations' International Labor Organization (ILO). This year's gathering was centered around setting -- historic! -- international standards and workplace protections for domestic labor, and was a result of a decade-long organizing effort by domestic workers advocates and allied organizations. The final outcome will be a Convention on Domestic Labor (an international human rights document) to be voted upon this Thursday, June 16. See testimony from the proceedings and read more.  

Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) announced [pdf] the awardees of its first-ever Economic Security Innovations Awards, a part of WOW's Building Bridges to Economic Security Campaign.

On June 13, the National Council for Research on Women, Demos, the White House Project, New York Women's Agenda, the Women of Color Policy Network, the Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Committee, and NOW-NYC hosted A Promising Economic Strategy: More Women in Leadership Positions, a panel discussion on strategies for advancing the role of women in leadership positions.

13 June 2011

[Video] Anika Rahman on CBS MoneyWatch: The Womancession and Women's Unemployment

Last week, CBS MoneyWatch featured Ms. Foundation President and CEO Anika Rahman in this story by Jill Schlesinger on today's "womancession" and the escalating crisis of women's job loss and unemployment.

Jill Schlesinger is the Editor-at-Large for CBS MoneyWatch.com.

Learn more about the impact of today's economy on women.

07 June 2011

California Domestic Workers Win Big!

Congratulations to grantees Mujeres Unidas y Activas and the National Domestic Workers Alliance! Last Thursday, the California Assembly passed their Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, 41-19. This is a crucial step forward in the fight to secure labor rights for nannies, elderly caregivers and housekeepers, who make up one of the most invisible, excluded workforces in the nation and have been explicitly barred from state and federal protections afforded nearly every other worker. These domestic worker activists -- the majority of whom are immigrant women of color -- will now set their sights on the California Senate, and hope to bring the bill up for a vote soon.

If successful, California would become the second state in the country with a domestic workers bill of rights on the books, following closely behind New York, which passed the first such law last year. The historic New York State Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was won thanks to a years-long campaign led by another Ms. Foundation grantee Domestic Workers United (DWU). Founded in 2000 in a small office in the Bronx, DWU drafted the original legislation and then built a diverse statewide coalition of supporters, including representatives from labor, religious, immigrant and youth movements, who learned to see domestic workers' rights as intimately linked with their own. Today, DWU is partnering with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, led by former DWU executive director, Ai-Jen Poo, to advance similar wins in other states -- the first, of course, being California.

Domestic workers' organizing in New York, California and nationwide is a powerful lesson in movement building -- uniting and mobilizing diverse groups in common purpose -- and the role that philanthropy can play in bringing such success about. The Ms. Foundation, which has proudly supported Domestic Workers United throughout its development, has embraced opportunities to support the once emerging, and now thriving, domestic workers movement. Today we also fund DWU's state and national sister organizations -- Mujeres Unidas y Activas and the National Domestic Workers Alliance -- groups that are making striking progress during a time of extreme right-wing pushback and a punishing economic crisis.

In fact, last week's win in California (along with fabulous news about paid sick leave and single-payer health insurance in Connecticut and Vermont) is just the kind of medicine our movement for progressive change needs. Domestic workers are making key strides on behalf of women, workers, and immigrants at a time when the rights and well-being of these groups are under attack in Washington and statehouses nationwide. So, let's all find great hope and inspiration in this positive news. And then think of ways to help ensure that the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights becomes law. Think you're happy now? Then we'll really have something to celebrate!

Support the Ms. Foundation for Women and help us make an even greater investment in building women's collective power to ignite progressive change nationwide. Donate today!

Photo: Mujeres Unidas y Activas

Weekly Round-Up: Grantees Making Waves Nationwide

Last week, in a word, was HUGE -- for our grantees and the progressive movement writ large. Take a look below for highlights of some truly historic wins for women, workers, immigrants -- for all of us nationwide. Once again, the tenacity, courage and success of our grantee partners leaves us in awe.

Grantee win alert! Congratulations to Mujeres Unidas y Activas, the California Domestic Workers Coalition and the National Domestic Workers Alliance! Thanks to their advocacy, the CA Assembly just passed the CA Domestic Workers Bill of Rights today, 41-19. Bring on the Senate!

Grantee win alert! Family Values @ Work and their state coalition member, Connecticut Working Families, won a significant victory last week when Connecticut became the first state in the nation to pass paid sick leave legislation. Congratulations! This is truly a collective win for all of our grantees advocating for paid sick leave at federal, state and local levels across the US.

Grantee win alert! Last week Vermont passed legislation that will move the state towards a universal single-payer health insurance system -- to be phased in alongside national health-care reform. The Vermont Workers' Center, affiliated with the national organization Jobs With Justice, played a vital role in this win, advocating for health care as a human right and building a robust political coalition in support of change.

For more than a year, Families for Freedom, a New York State member organization of our grantee, the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, has been advocating for the state’s withdrawal from Secure Communities, a program rife with problems that allows immigration officials to access fingerprint databases and identify individuals for deportation. Last week, their fight finally paid off when New York became the second state in the nation to suspend its participation. Let's hope it's contagious! Already, Massachusetts has followed suit.

The National Day labor Organizing Network released their own statement about the New York State news. “It is clear the tide turning on SCOMM, and it’s high time for the President to terminate the program before any further damage is done to our communities.”

Christina Rodriguez, Co-Founder of SMART Youth, spoke at the press conference announcing the launch of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) report, AIDS at 30: Nations at the Crossroads.” Just 20 years old (we're so impressed!), she shared her youth perspective and emphasized the critical need for access to comprehensive sexuality education in the fight to end HIV/AIDS.

Women’s Voices for the Earth and the National Asian and Pacific American Women’s Forum held a successful Congressional briefing on salon worker health and safety. The purpose was to increase co-sponsorship of the federal Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011, which will likely be introduced this week. It was well attended and covered by several media outlets. Read coverage from the Wall Street Journal and learn more.

Service Women’s Action Network launched a new blog last week called About Face, which exists to provide a safe space for servicewomen, veterans, advocates and other concerned individuals to candidly promote the discussion of issues facing and influencing our community. Be sure to visit this important and unique platform for servicewomen and their allies nationwide!

Service Women's Action Network proudly endorses legislation proposed by Rep. Slaughter and Sen. Gillibrand that would expand the reproductive rights of military women. Read the full press release and stay tuned for the progress of the bill, "The MARCH for Military Women Act" (Military Access to Reproductive Care and Health), H.R. 2085! 

The Women of Color Policy Network released a brief, Workplace Flexibility and Women of Color [pdf], on the impact and importance of workplace flexibility arrangements for women of color, particularly Black and Latina workers, who are less likely to have flexible schedules, access to paid sick leave, and other work supports.

In the News
In "Spending Cuts and the 'Womencession'," a commentary in the Lexington Herald-Ledger, Attica Woodson Scott of Kentucky Jobs with Justice (and 2011 Woman of Vision awardee!) draws on findings from a recent national poll commissioned by the Ms. Foundation to bolster her case that many women and children in Kentucky are facing tremendous economic insecurity and injustice.

Wider Opportunities for Women’s Executive Director, Joan Kuriansky, published an opinion piece in the Washington Post in support of continued federal funding for job training programs, including the burgeoning green jobs field.

Upcoming Events
On June 8, organizers from Parent Voices in California and their allies in New Mexico (OLÉ Working Parents Association) and Washington, DC (Parent Ambassadors) will sit down with President Obama's top education policy adviser, Roberto Rodriguez, and offer a grassroots perspective on how to improve child care programs.

On June 9, in Washington, DC, the Institute for Women's Policy Research and the National Women's Law Center are holding a congressional briefing, Combating Pay Secrecy for Paycheck Fairness.

On June 15, in Denver, CO, Lorena Garcia and Kenia Morales of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) will lead the training, Breaking Down Issue Silos: Strategies for Building Campaign Messages that Cater to Different Communities, as part of The White House Project's Go Lead program.

On June 23, in New York City, the Ms. Foundation is co-sponsoring an Emerging Leaders event organized by the National Council for Research of Women and the Girls Scouts of the USA.

03 June 2011

New Study Shows Media Underreport and Misrepresent Child Sexual Abuse

Tens of thousands of children are sexually abused each year in the United States, yet news coverage of the subject is out of sync with both the magnitude of the issue and the context in which it occurs. This finding comes from a study commissioned by the Ms. Foundation for Women as part of our groundbreaking partnership with the NoVo Foundation and individual donors to end child sexual abuse.

The report, Case by Case: News coverage of child sexual abuse, was announced last week by Berkeley Media Studies Group, a project of the Public Health Institute.

The study examined national news stories on child sexual abuse published between 2007 and 2009. Fewer than one story a week focused on the topic and even fewer covered the issue in detail. Several troubling patterns emerged, such as: