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Women make 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man

A tablet lists challenges discussed at the Nov. 22 forum on the Women's Economic Security Act (WESA). (Photos by Naomi Yaeger)1 / 3
Zandra Zwiebel discusses women and workplace practices.2 / 3
Chris Conry from the Take Action speaks on the Minnesota Women's Economic Security Act. 3 / 3

Duluthians from League of Women Voters and American Association of University Women got together on Nov. 22 for a joint "hot topic" meeting. The subject was the Women's Economic Security Act (WESA), which passed the Minnesota Legislature in May and became law in August. It is intended to break down barriers for women in the workplace, but not all provisions passed, and advocates see more work to do.

About 30 women from the two groups gathered to hear Chris Conry from the Take Action Minnesota speak and to plan for the 2015 legislative session.

Issues discussed included earned sick time, retirement security, pay equity, child care and protecting spouses from becoming impoverished when a partner's health care needs are great.

Conry said some workplaces "punish" women with children by not paying or advancing them as quickly as other employees. And in non-union workplaces, women still make on averafe 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man.

The Women's Economic Security Act proposes to add "family caregiver" to the list of protected classes for employment purposes.

Another issue discussed was unemployment insurance. WESA encourages legislation to end the special status for temporary agencies. WESA also encourages the state to enact provisions to improve the conditions of part-time workers through:

+ Requirements to pay employees who report to work, and then are asked to leave, for a minimum number of hours work;

+ Providing extra pay to workers scheduled for call-in shifts and for workers whose shifts are canceled with less than 24 hours notice;

+ Requirements to give employees two-week advance notice of work schedules;

+ Ongoing disclosure of the minimum number of hours an employee can expect to work on a weekly or monthly basis.

Conry told the women that change was possible. "Six years ago I thought the country was too racist to elect a black president," he said. He added that six years ago he would not have believed the state would vote for gay marriages.

The LWV plans a roundtable discussion for Jan. 4.

Naomi Yaeger

Naomi Yaeger is a freelance writer and the former editor of the Budgeteer. See her blog at www.DuluthDailyPhoto.com.

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