The National Organization for Women urges Congress to take up President Obama’s American Jobs Act immediately. While not everything we could have wished for, the president’s bill is a substantial step toward rebuilding our country’s shaky economy.
The goal must be an economy in which everyone who wants a job can find one. The U.S. is in a very deep unemployment hole, and millions of new and returning jobs must become available in the near future. In our view, a series of government stimulus plans will be required to return the economy to health.
Of special concern to NOW is the fact that women are being left behind in the current so-called recovery, having lost nearly 300,000 jobs since the recovery began in 2009. In fact, many jobs previously held by women are now being taken by men. Among household heads, African American women’s unemployment rate is over 17 percent, and Latinas’ is over 12 percent. As the American Jobs Act passes through Congress, our grassroots activists will advocate for stimulus targeted at those who are most vulnerable and whose families are suffering the most.
As we rebuild our schools, bridges and transit systems, we must also rehire the teachers, health care workers, child care workers and social workers who have been laid off by state and local governments. Disproportionately women, these workers are the glue that holds our communities together. Honor them with livable wages, health benefits, retirement security and equal pay for work of equal value.
In his spirited 35-minute speech, President Obama laid out a broad plan to stimulate job growth through incentives to small business, a halving of the payroll tax for workers and small businesses, incentives to businesses that hire workers unemployed for six months or more, investment in transportation infrastructure and renovation of 35,000 schools, as well as funds to re-hire thousands of teachers laid off during the recession. Obama made his case by repeatedly noting that many of these proposals had been made in the past by Republicans. The plan also includes an extension of unemployment insurance benefits for another year, an emphasis on hiring veterans, funding summer jobs for disadvantaged youth, and help for homeowners facing foreclosure.
The president also tackled head-on Republican intransigence on raising taxes, stating that we need a tax code where everyone pays their fair share and noting that we as a nation must decide whether it is more important to extend tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires or put teachers back to work to prepare our children for the future. He said: “[T]here are some things we can only do together, as a nation. . . . No single individual built America on their own. We built it together.”
O’Neill responds: “The president is right, and I would add that women played an important role in that building — a role that is often taken for granted. We simply cannot ignore women’s critical role in our economy today. We must close the gender wage gap, pay livable wages to women who work in traditionally female jobs, and prepare women to move into higher-paying jobs with real potential for advancement. In other words, as the president would say, we need to ‘up our game’.”