Go Face to Face With Your Legislators

It’s so easy to click on links to email your representatives, or even send them (yikes!) snail mail, as long as there’s no white powder in it.  But you can be intellectually and emotionally stimulated by taking an active part in the legislative process in person. Look them in the face! It’s powerful, and they need to see AAUW, the advocates for women and girls who are civil, informed and educated.

There are two ways to do it. First, you can contact your local representatives both state and national while they are in their home districts. Take some AAUW material with you and just tell them what we are advocating for, and then listen. It really helps to hear what they think. Even if they don’t share our priorities, it helps to learn why. Compromise may yet be possible, and sometimes you can overcome their reservations with facts. AAUW is all about research and facts. What about taking them a seasonal greeting card signed by branch members too?

Florida legislators are home right now, and there is another committee week in Tallahassee December 5-8. They should be returning home after that. The legislative session starts January 9, 2018.

The second way is, of course, our Lobby Days in Tallahassee, January 24 and 25 with a training evening January 23 in the hotel. There’s nothing like sampling the atmosphere at the Capitol. See how the sausage is made! Gauge the allegedly sexually charged atmosphere! See what other groups are there! More importantly, visit your representatives. Rep. Lori Berman, one of AAUW’s best friends in the House (also running for Florida Senate next year), says nothing counts more than these in-person visits. You will need to schedule them ahead of time to be (relatively) sure of seeing the representative, but if you can’t do that, you can probably talk with staff.

Other things you can do during Lobby Days include sitting in the House or Senate gallery if they are in session. You are only allowed to stay 15 minutes or so, and it can be hard to find a seat. Also, they are often boring, with ceremonial processes going on that have little to do with actual legislation. If there is a committee meeting you’re interested in, that can be better because that is really where the sausage is made. You may fill out a form when entering the room if you wish to make your views known. There are two ways to do that: you can “waive” in favor or opposed to the bill they’re considering (yes, I spelled that correctly), or you can apply to speak on the bill. If you apply to speak, you may have to wait quite a while, and you should be brief and to the point, but it is really worth doing.

A list of Florida AAUW’s legislative priorities for this year will be out very soon—watch for it! But don’t be surprised if it changes by January 24. It’s a roller coaster ride up in Tally!

Start Now to Work for the HGD Fair Pay Protection Act!

The pay gap between full-time working men and women is real. The figures come from the Department of the Census’ Current Population Survey and median figures are calculated across all occupations for full-time workers. It varies by state, locality, occupation, age, and other factors, but it is always there. For example, nationally the pay gap is 20% (earnings ratio 80%), but in Florida the pay gap is 13%. More information can be found on the AAUW and Institute for Women’s Policy Research websites.

Many factors influence the pay gap, including women’s choices. But two studies have looked at full-time employed college graduates one year out and at the workforce in general, and after controlling for everything known to affect pay, a 7-8% unexplained gap was found.

The pay gap is an important social problem. Lower pay for women affects families as well as single women; half of American families include a woman earning at least 40% of the household income. Closing the pay gap would reduce poverty in Florida by more than half . In Florida, 25% of family households headed by a woman without a husband present are living in poverty. At higher income levels, closing the pay gap would boost women’s influence. The pay gap is larger in terms of percentage in the “professions” and management. It’s not just money. Women may be encouraged or required to accept positions that do not lead to advancement (sometimes called “mommy tracking”). This contributes to the lack of women in corporate leadership.

Several initiatives have been proposed to close the pay gap. Women can be encouraged to choose more lucrative occupations, usually those dominated by men. But several studies have found that as more women enter an occupation, wages go down for both genders. Women have been shown to be more reluctant to ask for raises or negotiate salary, but when they do, they risk being labeled as difficult.

Legislative remedies at the national level, such as the Paycheck Fairness Act, have stalled, so advocates are promoting remedies in several states. In Florida, the Helen Gordon Davis Fair Pay Protection Act, SB 594/HB 393 , has been filed by Rep. Lori Berman and Senator Linda Stewart. Similar to last year’s version, which was never even heard in committee, it provides the following protections:

  • Employers can’t retaliate against individuals involved in legal proceedings to enforce the law
  • Employers can’t retaliate against employees who discuss wages
  • Employers can’t reduce another employee’s pay to comply
  • Employers can’t request salary history
  • Employers can’t provide less favorable career opportunities based on sex

In addition, employer defenses are clarified: they must be job-related and agreement for a lesser wage is not a defense. The law, if passed, would apply to all employees including those covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (which has fewer protections).

The first step is to contact the following legislators and ask them to schedule HB 393 for consideration because:

  • The pay gap is real, and found in all industries and locations.
  • The pay gap is significant for women and families. Closing it would reduce poverty in Florida by half.
  • HB 393 will help to close the pay gap. It prohibits practices that make the pay gap worse. Stopping the practices of requiring applicants to submit prior salary history and of penalizing employees who discuss their salaries would help both women and men.

Rep. Halsey Beshears, chair of the Careers and Competition Subcommittee:   (850) 717-5007, Halsey.Beshears@myfloridahouse.gov

Richard Corcoran, Speaker of the House: (850) 717-5000     Richard.Corcoran@myfloridahouse.gov


Greater Naples Branch in Naples Day of Action

Members of the Greater Naples Branch will take part in Naples’ nonpartisan Citywide Day of Action / Day of Issues this Saturday, Nov 4.  The Day of Action is a new event for Naples, sponsored by Collier Freedom, an organization created to hold the January Women’s March. They have continued their work in Collier County.

From noon until 3 pm, we will demonstrate in support of the issue “Women’s Rights” by peacefully holding signs and banners for all passing vehicles and pedestrians to see. At nineteen different intersections in greater Naples, activists will support various issues with signs and banners.

A rally will follow at Cambier Park from 4 to 6 pm at which we will have a table and distribute AAUW Public Policy flyers. Thus we will have a presence with our signs and banners. Close to 50 groups will participate in the day long event.

Karen Clegg and Ardel Nelson
Public Policy Co-Chairs

Fair Pay Protection Act Bills Filed

Because of the failure to pass the federal Paycheck Fairness Act, several states have enacted or considered legislation to help correct the gender pay gap. Eighteen states have protections from employer retaliation against employees who discuss one another’s salary. Four states have passed bills to prohibit employers from using a job applicant’s salary history during the hiring process. For the second year, Florida legislators have introduced strong bills in support of pay equity, including these and other provisions.

AAUW Florida members and Public Policy officers need to prepare now to advocate for these bills to be heard in committee, since they were not even heard last year.

Senator Linda Stewart (D-Orlando), Democratic Leader Janet Cruz (D-Tampa) and Representative Lori Berman (D-Lantana) have filed the pay equity bills, SB 594 and HB 393.

Nicknamed the “Senator Helen Gordon Davis Fair Pay Protection Act” in honor of Helen Gordon Davis for her hard work in the field of equal pay, the bills hope to strengthen state laws in this arena. In short, the bills specify which factors employers can use to decide to pay employees differently, such as education, experience, seniority, or merit. They would also prohibit employers from screening job applicants based on prior wages, bar employers from taking retaliatory action against an employee who discloses their wages to a coworker, prohibit employers from discrimination towards employees based on their sex, prohibit employers from using the wage or salary history of a prospective employee in determining a wage or as a condition to be interviewed, and create civil penalties for violations of these laws.

Pat DeWitt appeared at the press conference in Tallahassee October 24 announcing the Helen Gordon Davis bills along with Rep. Berman and Senator Stewart. She said in part:

We have almost a million family households with a female head and no husband present, and 25% are below poverty level. On the other end of the income scale, the gender wage gap is actually larger in percentage. Maybe if higher-income women had more parity with men, they would have more resources to run for the legislature, which in Florida has only 25% women.


Working for Title IX

Linda Barker in Vero Beach would like to know what other branches are doing to support Title IX. She wrote to national and received the following reply from Olivia Guerrieri (who gave me permission to post):

Meeting with your district’s Title IX Coordinators is a great first step! Successful advocacy is all about relationships, and having a meeting is the first step to starting one. We hope you’ll continue to develop relationships with the Title IX Coordinators you’ve spoken to, and if there are any you haven’t reached out to yet, you can find their information here. One next step you can take in building these relationships is to co-author a letter to the editor about the importance of upholding Title IX protections. You can read more about this idea here, and view a customizable sample letter here. When meeting with Title IX Coordinators, we also encourage you to ask what support your local Title IX Coordinator needs from the community. Finding out what would be most helpful for them will help you use your advocacy power most effectively.
Regarding principals serving as Title IX Coordinators, the Department of Education’s 2015 Dear Colleague Letter says, “Title IX does not categorically exclude particular employees from serving as Title IX coordinators. However, when designating a Title IX coordinator, a recipient should be careful to avoid designating an employee whose other job responsibilities may create a conflict of interest. For example, designating a disciplinary board member, general counsel, dean of students, superintendent, principal, or athletics director as the Title IX coordinator may pose a conflict of interest.” This letter is part of the resources you helpfully put in the hands of your local school district. You might consider following up to ask if they have any questions about the information.
There are a few other next steps your branch may want to consider moving forward. Many branches have held great community events or forums where they’ve asked local Title IX Coordinators, from all levels of education, to speak about their roles—another way to develop those relationships, while also sharing information with others in your community. One possible discussion topic would be the Civil Rights Data Collection, in which 67 percent of local education agencies reported zero allegations of sexual harassment or bullying during the 2013–14 school year—obviously not an accurate reflection. 
AAUW branches have also worked to advance legislation in their states that would address the issue of campus sexual assault. 

Pay Gap Update With Florida Statistics

This is a draft of a potential op-ed that you may use as needed. I don’t have the update on Florida’s Helen Gordon Davis Fair Pay Protection Act bill yet. I am waiting on that update and announcement before sending this in:

AAUW’s annually updated publication, The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap, (http://bit.ly/1baHZaW) has come out and the big news is—there is no change. The difference between typical (median) salaries for full-time men and women workers is the same as last year: women made only 80% of what men made. The data for this comparison comes from the Department of the Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it includes all occupations. However, the AAUW report includes some information about the pay gap within occupations: the earnings ratio in financial managers is 69%, while in registered nurses it is 91% (yes, male nurses make more!)

State-level statistics are available, and Florida scores well on them, with women in Florida earning 87% of typical male salaries. But what could a woman or family do with the $5,474 difference between the median male salary of $41,586 and the median female salary of $36,112? The pay gap affects families: over 40% of women function as primary or co-breadwinners in their families.

Closing the pay gap would reduce poverty. In Florida, there are almost a million family households with a female householder and no husband present. 25 percent of these households statewide are below the poverty level. In District 4 (Rutherford), there are 26,882 such households, representing 14% of all families, with 16% below the poverty level. In District 5 (Lawson), things are worse: 53,545 female householders representing 34% of all families, with 29% of them below poverty level. 

To close the pay gap, we need to encourage young women to choose better-paying careers, encourage employers to analyze their pay structure with an eye to equity, and pass legislation prohibiting factors that generate the pay gap. Since 1963, equal pay for equal work has been the law, but it is difficult to prove because of lack of salary transparency and the ease of making excuses for pay differences.

Bookmarks to Contact Elected Officials by Vicki Waters

Elected Officials: Call ‘em, Email ‘em, Visit ‘em OFTEN!

As it has become increasingly critical that we speak out on issues important to women and girls, the Manatee County Branch developed a way to make it easy for members to call and email their elected officials.  They created this branch bookmark [Publisher version link] for members to keep handy and to use often.  You can get a template to create one like the image below for the elected officials in your area from Vicki Waters.

Bookmark Vero Beach AAUW Aug 2017

The Manatee County and Bradenton Branches are also using the bookmark in joint letters of congratulations they are sending to local women in the news to introduce them to AAUW and to invite these community leaders to join one or both branches.  They also plan on approaching the local library system to see if they would allow AAUW to put bookmarks in each library in the county.

Pat DeWitt, our AAUW FL Public Policy Director, is working with national to increase our influence on state legislation.  Florida state senators and representatives are drafting and filing legislation right now for the 2018 session which begins January 9, 2018, and if members will attend the county legislative delegation meeting, usually held in October, they will be able to share the bookmark with others who attend the meeting to express their concerns about and support for specific legislative measures – another way to get our names out there.

Vicki Waters of Manatee Branch (941 773-2643) is willing to work with any Florida branch to finalize their very own bookmark to use however they wish.

Where to find the information you need:

  • Supervisor of Elections website:  The website of most county elections offices generally has a list of elected officials from cities up to federal officials with their contact information.  If not, try some of the following sites.
  • VoteSmart.org. This link to the Florida information on this website has contact information, but it needs to be double checked for the latest data.  It also has lots more information on elected officials’ positions on the issues, ratings by various organizations and lobbyists, votes on key legislation, fundraising, and more.
  • Florida Senate and Florida House. In addition to current lists of state senators and representatives and links to further information about them, these websites let you find out what bills they have introduced or sponsored. There are tracking systems for you to request alerts sent directly to your email based on legislation and members you have elected to follow.

September Alerts

Florida, Please be alert to two things this month:

  • National legislators are on vacation in September and this would be a good time to visit them. We are all on the Two-minute Activist, but personal contact is even more effective. There’s a group of women in Jacksonville who show up at Rubio’s local office and our local representative’s office every week to politely let them know what they think of current issues. What do you think of that? They are motivated. Where are we? We are the established, educated women advocates since 1881. Make plans to visit this month and you will have plenty to talk about, primarily budget issues.
  • National AAUW has chosen Florida to plan and host a press conference regarding the release of the new version of The Simple Truth About the Gender Wage Gap during the week of September 18. By that time, Rep. Berman and Sen. Stewart will probably have filed the Florida equal pay bill, so there will be a lot to talk about. More on this later.

Florida Legislature by Diane Schrier

2 new  FL. Legislature Bills have been filed that are worrisome.    One is a claim from Justice2Jesus saying that the Legislature didn’t properly act on its lobbying between 2006-2008.

The other is Steube’s Human Trafficking Bill.   While an improvement, it has two worrisome areas.   It says that teachers must follow the curriculum at all times.   It also says human trafficking should be taught from grades 7-12.   However, the prime age for victims is averaged at 11-14.    The education must start earlier.

New Year, New Advocacy–or is it the same? from Pat DeWitt

This is the post excerpt.

I am honored to serve another two-year term as AAUW Florida Director for Public Policy. I hope this blog will help us share information and inspiration.

Here are some suggestions and pleas for the new year:

  1. Do not become paralyzed by the number of things that are going wrong. As an individual, you could pick one way to advocate every day, or every week, and that would make a real contribution. You can call a legislator or write a letter to the editor any day. Check the newspaper’s guidelines for letter or op-ed submission. Use AAUW’s Two-Minute Activist regularly. As a branch, please do plan at least one event a year when you will publicly (not just in the branch meeting!) advocate for AAUW’s public policy priorities. See suggestions below.
  2. Concentrate on educating your community. If we are the “educated women”, let’s use that and try to create occasions for the dissemination of facts and real-life observations and for civil dialogue. Anyone can attend a rally and wave a placard, and we can certainly do that, but would it not be our particular mission to educate and try to change hearts and minds with information? A great man I used to know who advocated before legislators said that they want “facts and a few good stories”. We love facts. For example, The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap is full of them. We need some compelling stories, because they are powerful in influencing opinion. Just make sure they are true stories!
  3. Work with “diverse allies and coalitions” as AAUW recommends, but check them out first. Find out if their goals and mode of operation are consistent with your values and our public policy. See http://www.aauw.org/resource/workshop-how-to-build-coalitions/.

Here are some types of advocacy events you can consider. You can learn about most of them and more on the AAUW website.

  1. Events featuring education
    1. Issue forum, perhaps with coalitions or allies. http://www.aauw.org/resource/organize-an-issue-forum/
    2. Letters to editor or op-eds. http://www.aauw.org/resource/lte-vs-op-ed/
    3. Tabling event at which you distribute AAUW literature and talk with people. http://www.aauw.org/resource/how-to-tabling/
    4. Open meeting to discuss advocacy: like issue forum but might have a broader focus
  1. Events to influence legislators
    1. In-district meeting with elected officials http://www.aauw.org/resource/how-to-hold-a-meeting-with-your-elected-officials/
    2. Call-in day: get together and call legislators
    3. Lobby Days: Let’s go to Tallahassee!