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“The Help” and the rights of domestic workers

This week, I went to see the movie The Help, based on the best-selling novel by Kathryn Stockett. The film focuses on the exploitation, abuse, and indignities endured by African American women who worked as housecleaners, childcare providers, and cooks in the homes of white families in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s. 

HERvotes Blog Carnival

On the anniversaries of the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment and the 1963 March on Washington, which are this week, MomsRising joins our colleagues in working to mobilize women voters around preserving women’s Health and Economic Rights (HERrights) in order to build an even stronger nation that lives up to its full potential.

The current extremist attacks on women’s health and family economic security serve to weaken the United States and our families, not strengthen them.  Frankly, when family economic and health security is threatened, we are all threatened.

To counter these threats, MomsRising has joined forces with the leadership of HERvotes, which includes organizations that are on the very forefront of women’s equity issues, including those representing women of color, women’s faith groups, women labor leaders, along with a mixture of long-standing organizations like the 130 year old AAUW, to relatively new organizations like the five year old MomsRising, along with many more organizations, and many more to come.

A Woman’s Work on Economic Equality is Never Done

A divorced janitor, a 27-year employee and the mother of a seventeen-year old son with the mental capacity of an 18-month old, fails to report for mandatory overtime one Saturday when her son’s caregiver could not work because of a sick child. She calls twice and leaves a message for her manager. She gets fired.

Lending Programs Give Struggling Small Businesses a Helping Hand

Heidi Kallet had to sign away her life, so to speak, to achieve the American Dream.

Despite the dismal economy, the Virginia small business owner was ready to open her second stationery store and hire some new staff. Although Heidi’s business was booming, credit for small businesses had dried up and she couldn’t get a loan…until she gave the bank that agreed to help her everything she owned and signed her and her husband’s life insurance over as collateral.

This is not the only story of small business owners going to extreme lengths to get a loan. Many will take out second mortgages, run up their credit cards and employ various other risky measures because the loan environment is so bad. But two new federal programs formed under the 2010 Jobs and Credit Act might help them get the funding they need to launch new successful businesses and help rebuild our economy.

Protecting the Rights of Pregnant Women

It’s October 20, 2009. My lab results have just confirmed the news that my husband and I have been eagerly waiting to hear. I am pregnant. I am excited. I am overjoyed. I am nervous. I am anxious. My mind and body are gearing up to experience a plethora of emotions and sensations that will last for nine months and beyond. The first trimester goes without incident. We have just started announcing the news to family and friends. And then unexpectedly, four months into my pregnancy, I experience bleeding. Memories of a past miscarriage take over the joyous experience. I am fearful. My ob-gyn advises reducing my workload and taking it easy till things settle back into rhythm. I call my workplace and without much ado, my supervisor and I settle on a work-from-home arrangement till all is well.

Fortunately, all did go well and I gave birth to a healthy baby boy in July 2010. As I recovered from childbirth and later took time off to bond with my child, my union contract guaranteed that I wouldn’t lose pay or my family health coverage for the duration of my leave.

Discrimination Against Pregnant Women and New Mothers Is Not a Work-Life Balance Issue

Last week, Judge Loretta Preska of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed a class action suit alleging that Bloomberg L.P. discriminated against pregnant women and mothers returning from maternity leave.  In her decision, Judge Preska said that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) failed “to demonstrate that discrimination was Bloomberg’s standard operating procedure, even if there were several isolated instances of individual discrimination.”  As reported in the New York Times, Judge Preska went on to write “The law does not mandate ‘work-life balance,’” nor does it “require companies to ignore and stop valuing ultimate dedication, however unhealthy that may be for family life.”

Breastfeeding While Breadwinning–Helping Working Moms Understand Their Rights

When I gave birth last year, I was certain I wanted to breastfeed my baby and I assumed it would be pretty straightforward: breast + baby = food, right?  Our bodies were built for this and women have been doing it for thousands of years, I thought, so it shouldn’t be too hard.   Boy was I wrong!  Eight weeks and a split nipple later, I considered giving up.  I had prepared for and successfully tackled the challenges of labor, but after weeks of sleepless nights and tears, my tolerance for pain and emotional endurance were waning.

Luckily for me, I had the resources to seek help and I didn’t have to worry about heading back to work for another few months.  Not all women are as fortunate.  In New York City, where I live, 86% of women initiate breastfeeding at birth, but 8 weeks later only 32% are breastfeeding their infants exclusively.  Sore, cracked or bleeding nipples are partly to blame—21% of women cite this reason—but so are the challenges of continuing to breastfeed after returning to work.  A full 16% of women in New York City said their need to return to work or school caused them to stop breastfeeding.  This need not be the case.

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