Speaking up for women at the State House

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This week, our staff participated in the annual Advocacy Day at the State House, organized by the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women. We met with our legislators to advocate for bills that advance gender equity, sharing YW Boston’s perspective and stories on why such legislation is critical. 

The four bills we supported:

1. AN ACT TO ESTABLISH PAY EQUITY (S.2119 H.1733)

Sponsors: Rep Jay Livingstone, Rep Ellen Story

Status: Passed unanimously in the Senate; referred to House Ways and Means.

Bill Establishes:

  • Definition of “comparable work,” as similar in content, skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions; title or description does not determine comparability
  • Prohibits unequal compensation/benefits based on gender for comparable work
  • Forbids employer from inquiring about past salary history

Why do we need this law?

  1. Using employee’s salary history in hiring decisions or as a defense to unequal pay perpetuates inequities
  2. The pay gap is more significant for women of color 

 

2. AN ACT RELATIVE TO GENDER IDENTITY AND NONDISCRIMINATION (S.735 H.4253, PREVIOUSLY H.1577)

Sponsors: Sonia Chang-Diaz (D.Boston);  Byron Rushing (D. Boston, South End), Denise Provost (D. Somerville)

Status: Passed in the senate; referred to House Ways and Means

Bill Establishes:

  • Inclusion of term “gender identity” in addition to “sex” for existing MA Law (c272 s72A) against discrimination in public places

Why do we need this law?

  1. Transgender women are women, and we need to advance the rights and opportunities of all women
  2. Ensuring fair treatment and protection for people of all gender identities creates a stronger, safer, and more unified community
  3. Anyone opposing this bill is not truly speaking in support of all women
  4. MA General Laws have already established definition for gender identity (CH4 s7 c59), only appropriate to extend discrimination protection to this group of protected persons

 

3. AN ACT ESTABLISHING A FMLA AND TEMPORARY DISABILITY LEAVE INSURANCE PROGRAM (H.1718, S.1008)

Sponsors: Rep. Kenneth Gordon, Senator Karen Spilka

Status: Awaiting hearings in both the Senate and the House.

Bill Establishes:

  • Employee rights to paid family care leave and temporary disability leave
  • Defines “family care leave”: 1. Birth of a child 2. Placement of child in adoption or foster care 3. Serious health condition of family member of employee
  • Defines “family care benefits” as disability benefits for above three cases
  • Secures “family care leave” for birth of child for up to 12 months
  • Assures taking temp disability leave/ family care leave does not affect rights to accrue benefits such as vacation hours, sick leave, bonuses, seniority, or program benefits
  • Assures employer will continue to contribute to health insurance benefits
  • Minimums for weekly benefits paid out- 95% of weekly wage for those making 30% of median area income; 90% for those in the 30%-50% bracket, and 80% for those making 50%+ of median area income

Why do we need this law?

  1. Allows for both parents to take leave, combatting traditional burden on women to stay home
  2. Not forcing a woman to choose between taking care of her health or giving up pay or even her job
  3. Tiered reimbursement system is equitable
  4. Recognize the necessity of taking time from employment to care for family members
  5. Law fills gaps!
    • Federal FMLA applies only to employers with 50+ employees, only job security, not compensation
    • Current Paid Sick Leave Law covers only employers own illness, not employee leave for caring for family
    • Pregnancy bill (if passed) does not include employee compensation, only job security and accommodations

 

4. “Girls Bill” RESOLVE PROVIDING FOR INVESTIGATION AND STUDY BY SPECIAL COMMISSION RELATIVE TO GENDER-RESPONSIVE PROGRAMMING FOR JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM INVOLVED GIRLS (H.82)

Sponsors: Rep. Gloria Fox, Rep. Russel  Holmes, Senator Linda Dorcena Forry

Status: Recommended “ought to pass” by House Ways and Means, and House Steering, Policy, and Scheduling, ordered to 3rd reading; not yet heard in Senate

Bill Establishes:

  • Special commission to research gender-responsive programming for juvenile justice system involved girls

Why do we need this law?

  1. Juvenile justice system was designed for boys, but girls have unique needs from boys
  2. Girls are entering the juvenile justice system at increasing rates
  3. Girls are more likely to engage in self-harm and to suffer from mental illness
    • More than half of all girls in detention have reported attempting suicide
  4. Girls are more likely to suffer from sexual abuse
    • ÂĽ girls who commit violence have been sexually abused compared to 1/10 of nonviolent girls
  5. Oregon and Florida have precedent of establishing a similar commission and have seen reduced recidivism rates

 

Interested in supporting these bills? The Massachusetts legislative session continues through July 31, so you still have a chance to make your voice heard! Find out who your state legislators are, and then call, email, or visit to tell them why gender equity matters to you.