The real war on women in Connecticut

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Donald Trump’s atrocious war on women has been on full display, but there’s another war on women that takes place inside our Capitol every legislative session. Big business lobbyists, and the Republicans they now indirectly fund, routinely fight the right of women to achieve equal pay and fair workplace policies that keep women in the workforce.

As the nation shudders to think about the effect a Trump presidency would have on society, big business lobbyists are currently orchestrating a $415K campaign to elect Republicans who put profits over women’s equality.

The Connecticut Business & Industry Association (CBIA) is one of the most powerful corporate lobbying organizations in the state. CBIA has shown time and again that it does not support women in the workforce by consistently opposing legislation meant to ensure women are treated fairly in our economy. Following are just a few examples:

Breastfeeding in the workplace

CBIA opposed legislation requiring employers to provide reasonable, unpaid breaks each day to an employee who needs to express her breastmilk for her infant and make reasonable efforts to provide a private area for the employee to do so; stating the bill was too much of a burden “by requiring employers to give employees time each day away from their duties, regardless of whether they are critical or not, this bill undermines the employers’ ability to compete.” They submitted the only testimony against additional legislation in 2011 to protect breastfeeding working mothers.

Their argument is that the health of a small child, the comfort and focus of their own workers, and the simple ability for working mothers to return to their jobs are all less important than the perceived convenience of employers — even though there is no cost. A woman’s work environment should not dictate how she nourishes her baby. Reserving time at work is critical to the health of the baby and the wellbeing of the employee who is breastfeeding – which should be of valid concern to her employer.

Paid family leave

Recognition of the need for paid family leave has been growing, prompting policy proposals from both major party presidential candidates this year. Here in Connecticut, there is a growing coalition of business owners, health care professionals, workers, faith organizations, and childcare experts who have called for a statewide paid family leave program, including over 100 women in leadership who called on our representatives to pass such a policy.

The program would provide job protection for a worker for parental leave, to care for a seriously ill family member, or to take care of themselves if they were seriously ill. Employers would not be mandated to pay for the leave, all they would have to do is not fire someone who was using it for legitimate reasons.

Still, CBIA has opposed the legislation, continuing to force their small business members to make the impossible choice of paying for leave for their employees themselves or forcing their employees into financial hardship.

As our neighboring states of Rhode Island, New Jersey, and now New York implement this program, Connecticut must do the same to remain competitive. As a state struggling to retain residents, we cannot afford to lose young, talented women who are considering having a family some day because they worry about their financial security and careers if they do.

Almost a quarter of new working mothers are forced to leave their babies and return to work within only two weeks after giving birth just to keep their jobs or pay their bills. Women’s earning potential decreases 4 percent for each child she has. If we are serious about equal pay, this common sense program is a must.

Pay equity

Speaking of pay equity, Just last year, CBIA opposed HB 6850: An Act Concerning Pay Equity and Fairness because it “creates more issues than it resolves.” Again, they were the only organization to submit testimony against the policy.

When education, skills, experience, hours worked, and other similar factors are controlled for, women make an estimated 22-44 percent less than their white male peers. These statistics represent lost wages that would have been spent on local economic growth. They represent families having to do with less since many families rely predominantly or solely on the mother’s income. They represent lost opportunities as things like earning another degree or starting up a new business become out of reach. CBIA’s position isn’t just unjust towards women – it is damaging to our economy.

There’s no doubt the damage a Trump presidency would do to the country. But a CBIA-backed Republican control in our state would make living and working harder for women in Connecticut.

Lindsay Farrell is the Director of the Connecticut Working Families Party.

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