It’s not getting better. That’s the key finding of a new survey of low-wage workers out yesterday from the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago. Eighty-one percent of low-wage employees surveyed said their family’s financial situation was the same or worse than it had been four years ago, while 64 percent reported that their wages have been stagnant or declined over the past five years. The survey queried 1,606 workers earning $35,000 or less annually.
It’s too late for Tonisha Howard, the mother of three in Milwaukee who was fired for leaving work to be with her hospitalized two-year-old. And for Felix Trinidad, who was so afraid of losing his job at Golden Farm fruit store in Brooklyn that he didn’t take time off to go to the doctor—even after he vomited blood. Trinidad, a father of two who had stomach cancer, continued to work until just days before his death from stomach cancer at age 34. But for workers in Portland and perhaps Philadelphia, paid sick days just got much closer to becoming reality.
Remember that Anne-Marie Slaughter article in The Atlantic about a month and a half ago, whose title—"Why Women Still Can't Have It All"—drove feminists bonkers, while the substance nevertheless rang true for roughly 70 gazillion working parents in this country who are doing the impossible every single day? Rebecca Traister proposed forever retiring the phrase "having it all" here, and I chastised the magazine for the framing. But the article's core idea was right, as I wrote at the time:
The picture alone filled me with dread: a baby in a briefcase. (Do go look at Jessica Valenti’s hilarious compilation of images from this genre.) That sick feeling only increased when I got to the hideous headline: “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.”
You might have heard about a study discussed this week on TheNew York Times Economix blog that says the motherhood payment gap is worse for low-income women in low-paying jobs than for women who earn more. In some respects, this is unsurprising: High-paying jobs also come with good benefits, like maternal leave and sick leave, that mitigate (but don't completely erase) the effects of missing work. A cruel irony of all that is, of course, women in those high-benefit jobs are less likely to have kids.
Connecticut might be closer to passing a bill that would require employers to provide paid sick leave, an effort that is similar to a bill proposed in the fall by Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd. But the Senate is tied up with bigger bills.
Courtney Martin writes that this International Women's Day, we should look at gender inequality in our own communities. Each day this week on TAPPED we will run a profile of an organization doing exactly that.
Although the panic over H1N1 has abated, one advisory for preventing the spread of the illness has fueled a debate over paid sick leave. The CDC is encouraging workers to stay home if they feel ill, but only 40 percent of private-sector employees receive paid sick leave, and many of those those who do have it work under punitive policies designed to prevent employees from malingering.