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Ellen Bravo

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Peaceful Revolution: What Women Wish Gwen Ifill Could Have Asked

Posted: 10/07/08 04:07 PM ET

Gwen Ifill was hobbled by more than a broken ankle at the vice presidential debate. The rules prevented her from asking any follow-up questions. I work with eleven statewide coalitions representing a million people, all fighting for policies that value families at work. Here are some questions we wish Gwen Ifill had been allowed to ask:

For Governor Palin: "You've said one of your three priorities as vice president will be working with families of children with special needs. I received letters from many women in this situation who said what they need is paid sick days and affordable family leave. A representative of your campaign told the Families and Work Institute that the McCain-Palin ticket opposes these measures as 'mandates.' Please explain your opposition. If Congress passed such bills, would a President McCain veto them?"

For Senator Biden: "You said that even though you're a man, you know what it's like to be a single parent. Your ticket has stated its support for policies such as paid sick days and expanding family leave. How much of a priority will you give these? Will you make it possible for members of your administration to go home at night to their families?"

For Governor Palin: "You told the viewers that you're middle class just like them. Yet you were able to bring your infants to work, you have a husband who can take time off without risking his paycheck or his job, and you have health insurance to pay for expensive therapies if you need them. Half the private sector workforce lacks even a single paid sick day or coverage under the Family and Medical Leave Act; only 8 percent of women have paid maternity leave. What would your administration do for families like these?"

Women are clamoring for answers to these questions. Despite all the hype about family values, our workplace policies don't value families. Every day workers risk their jobs to care for their loved ones, or put their loved ones at risk in order to keep their jobs.

The consortium I work with, together with groups such as MomsRising.org, have come up with an agenda to help resolve these dilemmas -- new workplace standards to meet the needs of "today's workforce).

Fifty-five organizations with millions of members are urging candidates to embrace this agenda. For us, it's the missing piece in the economic security puzzle.

The polls show an overwhelming majority of women support these standards. Our movement is helping activate these women, including young people who are voting for the very first time.

Recently I asked my college students whether they'd ever been told to come to work sick. Nearly every one raised their hand. These are the workers who serve us food, care for our kids, handle our groceries. My students typically have no choice - they rely on their jobs to pay for their education. Most workers are in the same boat.


My students are beginning to understand the consequences on Wall Street when we don't have standards in place - the system crumbles. We also need labor standards to ensure opportunities for those on Main Street. Paid sick days and affordable family leave are as basic today as minimum wage and ending child labor were 70 years ago.

Bad economic times are the worst time for someone to lose a job. A third of all bankruptcies stem from illness, and another 10% follow the birth of a child. We can't put women in the dangerous position of having to give up their jobs in order to care for themselves or their families.

The policies we want are low cost and cost-effective - most have no cost for government. They also save the government money in health care, welfare, unemployment benefits. And they cut costs for employers.

Women are going to decide this election. What we want is simple: candidates with straight answers and meaningful plans to value families at work.


A Peaceful Revolution is a blog about innovative ideas to strengthen America's families through public policies, business practices, and cultural change. Done in collaboration with MomsRising.org, read a new post here each week.

 

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