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Why COVID-19 Must Accelerate An Economic Justice Agenda For Women & Families

Written by Noreen Farrell

Updated 4.13.20

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into focus how economic justice is a matter of life and death. This is especially true for women and other workers who are without paid leave or job security. It creates impossible choices for those not protected from dangerous workplaces. It will strain those barely surviving on poverty wages or harmed by pay discrimination. It will likely place those who have complained of harassment or discrimination first on termination lists and last on rehire lists as workplaces navigate this pandemic. 

Just a month ago, the 2020 momentum for gender justice legislative reform appeared unstoppable. Buoyed by #MeToo movement momentum, 23 states started their 2020 session with new bills to bolster protections against sexual harassment and violence. To eradicate income inequality, 21 states introduced bills to stop workplace pay inequities. Over 36 states have introduced in 2020 expanding paid leave or paid sick time for workers. These efforts combined with a renewed commitment as the year commenced to similar legislation at the federal level, including the BE HEARD in the Workplace Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, and the Healthy Families Act. 

Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit and it has hit hard. Families across the country are caring for the sick, sheltering in place, and experiencing lay-offs or dangerous jobs. Workplaces are closing. These include 27 state legislatures (and counting) closing or postponing sessions, throwing uncertainty on the fate of thousands of bills.

As the federal government and state legislatures pass critical temporary relief packages and emergency legislation supporting those hit hardest by COVID-19, let’s also continue our call for more permanent policy fixes. 

On economic justice agendas across the country right now sit important pieces of legislation promising permanent economic security solutions to women and workers and families most threatened by COVID-19. As domestic workers work in infected homes, California is considering a bill that would end their exemption from state occupational safety and hazard laws. As workers choose between their health and jobs, bills ensuring permanent paid sick and paid family leave await votes in dozens of states like Tennessee, Illinois, and North Carolina. As families barely survive on inadequate unemployment benefits in Mississippi, a bill lingers in that state that would combat pay discrimination depressing the wage rate of those benefits. (Track more here.)

Join our call for bold action on a comprehensive women’s economic security agenda moving this pending legislation. Economic justice agendas awaiting action across the nation will ensure that COVID-19 emergency measures continue after this crisis for the families and workers most in need. Workplace justice and safety, family friendly policies, measures to build and protect household assets, and the expansion of affordable and quality childcare are not only critical now. These policies will build the economic security of American families and ready them for any crisis ahead. 

To take action on these bills, please join our mailing list below. We will provide you direct action links to support particular legislation. We can also direct you national and statewide advocates driving these efforts, including the Network of States to Stop Harassment, the Equal Pay Today Campaign, the Stronger California Women’s Economic Security Campaign and similar efforts in Mississippi, North Carolina, Illinois and states across the country.