This post is part of the HERvotes Blog Carnival: Protecting Unemployment Benefits.
The phenomenon of Occupy Wall Street has galvanized people to speak out and take a stand against economic injustice. The 99% moniker implies we either belong to the elite upper echelon…or there’s everybody else. But within that 99%, a variety of experiences and struggles exist. While the economic crisis impacted everyone, it affected women, and especially women of color, more adversely.
Women have been slower to recover from the recession. Adriana Kugler, Chief Economist for the Bureau of Labor, asserts the fastest growing sectors are “precisely sectors that mostly hire men, including professional and business services, manufacturing, and retail trade.” In November, the unemployment rate dropped to 8.6%. While men’s unemployment has decreased, in the past 2 years, women’s unemployment has increased.
While white women over age 20 had a 6.9% unemployment rate, women of color faced greater hurdles. The unemployment rate for Latina women was 10.6% and for African-American women 12.9%. Single women headed households also have a higher unemployment rate at 12.4%. The duration of unemployment increases as women get older, with women aged 55 and older bearing the burden of the longest duration. For the total population unemployed, 59% are unemployed for 15 weeks or longer, most for over 27 weeks. How are women expected to survive when they’re out of work for so long?
President Obama’s jobs plan targets assistance to women. For working women, his plan includes extending the payroll tax cut for workers, which would increase 77.9 million women’s paychecks, and cutting payroll taxes for over 900,000 women-owned small businesses. The jobs plan would invest $30 billion to help prevent up to 280,000 teacher lay-offs, 78% of whom are women. But President Obama’s plan targets unemployed women too.
One of the most crucial goals of the jobs plan includes a year-long extension of federal unemployment insurance (UI), which would benefit 2.6 million women who rely on those funds to survive. Part of extending UI includes the Self Employment Assistance Program which allows the usage of unemployment benefits to start new businesses. But Congress must act before the deadline of December 31st in order to renew unemployment insurance.
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis argued for the reauthorization of unemployment insurance and benefits:
“We know what has worked: extending payroll tax cuts and unemployment insurance, and making smart investments in our economy. The clock is ticking. If Congress doesn’t extend emergency unemployment benefits for our long-term unemployed this month, 5 million Americans will lose their benefits next year. These are the everyday heroes of our recovery who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. They spend all day, every day filling out applications, sending out resumes and looking for work. Now is not the time to turn our backs on them. They deserve better. They deserve action.”
But UI doesn’t just aid the unemployed. It also stimulates the economy. UI kept over 3.2 million people (including over 1 million women and almost 900,000 children) from plummeting into poverty last year. Recipients of UI “generally spend UI benefits quickly to meet basic needs,” generating approximately $2 growth in the U.S. economy for every $1 spent.
But as hopeful as the jobs plan is, President Obama’s plan doesn’t even begin to cover the gender wage gap and disparities already existing in the workplace.
Gender, race, class and socio-economic status all intersect, impacting people’s job search and economic situations. Women STILL only make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, 68 cents for African-American women and 58 cents for Latina women. Omg what fucking century are we living in?!
Women of color face an even greater uphill battle than white women. They contend with enormous discrimination due to a larger wage gap, not being hired, having names that sound “too ethnic” on their resumes so as not to get called for interviews. Within offices and industries, women of color may be passed over for promotions and unfairly seem to need twice the education and experience in order to compete.
Not only are women still not paid equally, they aren’t always treated equally either. Our country is plagued by horrendous family leave policies punishing women for having children. The U.S. is only 1 of 4 industrialized nations that do not offer paid maternity leave. They’re also punished for asking for a raise. Studies have shown women not only negotiate less than men for increased pay but if they do negotiate, they’re penalized for it. Sadly, many managers and supervisors (both women and men) believe women to be bitchy, too aggressive, overly assertive or not a “team player” if they ask for more money.
Occupy Wall Street and the economic crisis have opened the dialogue for greater economic justice. Part of that involves aiding both workers and those seeking employment. And that includes unemployment assistance. People erroneously assume the unemployed are lazy and don’t want to work hard. Single mothers, particularly African-American mothers, are vilified. The racist, sexist and classist stereotype of the Black welfare queen is still burned into people’s brains (ugh I could fucking scream at this disgusting and demeaning bullshit) All of these prejudices detract from the real problems plaguing our society. We should be helping the unemployed obtain jobs, discussing privilege, and dismantling racist and sexist stereotypes.
Our society preaches equality and democracy, but we have a long way to go before reaching that goal. Women aren’t paid the same, nor are they treated the same. Extending unemployment insurance is a crucial step in helping to level the playing field. We can’t turn our backs on the millions of women and children who need unemployment insurance to not only survive but thrive.
Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.