For too long the needs of women and families have been dismissed by our elected officials, as if women, who make up more than 50 percent of the population, are a special interest group seeking special treatment. It is way past time Congress understood that our issues are not an afterthought but are of critical importance to the economic health and well-being of our nation.
On Tuesday, AFSCME is participating in the Women's Equality Day #WEmatter campaign, a nationwide day of action to tell lawmakers that women -- and the issues we care about -- matter. We are putting them on notice. They can no longer abdicate their responsibility to govern on behalf of all of us and not face the consequences.
When 42 million women and 28 million children live in poverty, it's time for Congress to hear #WEmatter.
When, 51 years after the Equal Pay Act was signed into law, women still earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns for the same job, it's time for Congress to hear #WEmatter.
When women earning the minimum wage can work full time and still live in poverty, it's time for Congress to hear #WEmatter.
When the United States remains the only nation in the industrialized world that does not mandate paid family leave, it's time for Congress to hear #WEmatter.
When tax breaks for millionaires are prioritized over the education of our children, it's time for Congress to hear #WEmatter.
What the #WEmatter campaign comes down to is this: If Congress is unwilling to make economic security for women - for all of us - a priority, we will elect a new Congress. We will elect representatives who reflect the common-sense views and values of the American people.
With just 20 women currently serving in the U.S. Senate and 82 in the House, it is no surprise that our voices are so easily disregarded. Nationally, fewer than 25 percent of state legislators are women and there are only five female governors. Twenty-four states have never elected a woman governor. That's a disgrace. The land of opportunity should not be bested by countries like Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia when it comes to gender parity in government representation.
So it is imperative that we renew our commitment to elect more women to public office. Women bring different perspectives and a different approach to policy debates - and the priorities they champion have been ignored by our gender-lopsided Congress for far too long.
As Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York points out, it was the women in the Senate who managed to get through the gridlock to end the government shutdown and pass a federal budget. Perhaps if we add to their ranks this November, we can break through the partisan bickering that has paralyzed our government and blocked any meaningful economic reforms.
We will no longer tolerate cynical politicians who target us to win votes and money. There is no place in the halls of Congress for elected officials who use phrases like "legitimate rape," who hold hearings on women's health issues and allow no women on the panel, or who offer only platitudes for the problems we face.
The women and men of AFSCME are coming together with countless other activists and organizations today to build support for the issues and policies that are of critical importance to the economic stability and success of women, families and the nation. We have been ignored for too long but we will be hard to ignore come November.
Join us in the #WEmatter Campaign. Follow #WEmatter on Twitter.