At a Pivotal Time for Women and the State, Women's Caucus Announces Legislation and Budget Action

March 24, 2015

SACRAMENTO – With California at an economic crossroads, and families depending on women’s income more than ever before, the Democratic members of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus announced a package of comprehensive legislation and budget action today to advance the economic lives of women and the economic stability of the state.

“A Stronger California: Securing Economic Opportunity for All Women,” includes budget recommendations and a series of bills designed to advance women’s economic opportunities as the state emerges out of a serious economic downturn. Democratic members of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus have chosen priority legislation around four central pillars: Equal pay and job opportunities, access to childcare, family friendly workplaces and building economic security by addressing poverty.

The announcement comes as women’s economic roles are changing. Women comprise almost half of California’s workforce today, and families depend on women’s income more than ever before. The share of women who are breadwinners or co-breadwinners is the highest on record, at 40 percent of American families. Yet, across the nation, women are typically still paid less than their male counterparts, struggle for access to childcare and workplaces with family-friendly policies, and are more likely to be impacted by poverty.

Gender inequality affects the pocketbooks of California women and families directly. California women lose $33 billion in income each year to unequal pay. Single mothers spend 44% of their income on childcare, even as California has cut state childcare programs to the bone. In addition, two-thirds of low-wage earners are women.

After years of budget challenges, the state Legislative Analyst’s Office has projected a $5.6 billion surplus for the fiscal year of 2014-15, and California is in a financial position to invest in policies that improve the economic future of women and the state. More money in the pockets of California’s women is money that flows into our economy, making our state stronger.

“We are at an important juncture for California and California women, a place where we both can make a difference and recognize that a difference needs to be made,” said Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. “This isn’t just about the pocketbooks of California’s families, although that’s important. This is also about building a strong future for all of California.”

“Access to quality childcare impacts a family’s economic future,” said Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Garden), vice-chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. “The Women’s Caucus is requesting a renewed commitment to childcare for all working families in this year’s budget.”

“Women are increasing their role in, and impact on, our economy. It is vital we pursue policies that help ensure opportunity and equality,” said Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego).

“Although the economy is recovering, businesses are continuing to rely on involuntary part-time workers to cut costs. These workers are frequently women who – in addition to struggling  financially – have to battle unpredictable schedules that make it impossible to balance childcare obligations, schooling and a critical second or third job. Providing predictable work schedules for these families is simple fairness and common business sense,” said Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego).

“As we enter 2015 with both the biggest budget surplus in recent memory and the highest level of child poverty of any state it is critical we have an honest conversation about ways to reinvest in California’s most important resource, our families and children, ” said Senator Holly Mitchell (D- Los Angeles).

“Women, after enduring historical work-place discrimination and wage disparities, often reach their “golden years” at a considerably higher risk of impoverishment than men. We must repair the state’s frayed safety net and restore recession era cuts to the SSI/SSP funds to help support California’s senior women,” said Assemblymember Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernardino).

Women’s Caucus priority legislation and budget action:

Equal Pay and Job Opportunities

· California Fair Pay Act – SB 358 (Senator Jackson)

California women working full time make an average of only 84 cents to every dollar earned by men, and women of color, especially Latinas, face an even higher wage gap (44 cents to every dollar). This bill will help to ensure that women are paid equally when they do the same work as men, and protect workers from retaliation when they inquire or speak out about wage differences at work.

Access to Childcare

· Child Care Budget Request – Legislative Women’s Caucus

The Legislative Women’s Caucus requests an investment of no less than $600 million to be dedicated to the child care system. This investment should be evenly distributed betweenmodernizing rates and increasing slots.

· Raising Child Care Quality and Accessibility Act – SB 548 (Senator de León and Assemblymember Atkins)

This bill would establish the right of child care workers to collectively bargain, support additional training for child care providers and create new child care slots to help close the gap between children who need child care and those who have it.

Family Friendly Workplace

· Fair Scheduling Act – AB 357 (Assemblymembers Chiu and Weber)

Many workers have little advance notice of when they will be required to work, making things like planning for child care nearly impossible. Forty-seven percent of hourly workers know their schedules one week or less in advance, and 69 percent of working mothers experienced fluctuations in their hours in the prior month by an average of 40 percent. This bill will ensure family and financial stability for a vast segment of California’s workforce – those employed by food and general retail establishments with more than 500 employees – by granting these workers the right to work schedule predictability and requiring employers to accommodate employee requests for unpaid time off to attend to any required appointments at the county human services agency.

Building Economic Stability by Addressing Poverty

· Repeal CalWORKs Maximum Family Grant – SB 23 (Senator Mitchell)

This bill would repeal existing state law that denies infants and children $128 in basic needs assistance if the child was conceived and born while a family member was receiving aid unless the parent discloses and can prove that the child was conceived accidentally as a result of failed sterilization, failed intrauterine device or a rape. Repealing the MFG rule doesn’t only make the program more just – it also is estimated to reduce childhood poverty rates by 7.4 percent.

· Restore cuts to the SSI/SSP Program -- AB 1394 (Assemblymembers Brown and Thurmond) Restores cuts to the SSI/SSP program that were made in 2009, and restores the COLA (Cost Of Living Adjustment), establishing the individual grant at 112% of the federal poverty level.

A concept paper in support of this legislation, as well as a full list of bills moving through the California Legislature that support women’s economic opportunities, is available at www.StrongerCalifornia.org

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Contact: Lisa Gardiner (916) 651-4019 lisa.gardiner@sen.ca.gov