Ohio senators, faith leaders, small business owners, and doctors gathered at Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square to urge lawmakers to support legislation that ends workplace discrimination against pregnant women.
If passed, the bill would lay out a set of commonsense rules for business owners that ensure accommodations are being made for pregnant and breastfeeding employees. Too many women are forced to make the impossible decision of losing their income or continuing to work when the nature of their work may be harmful to them or their child.
Members of the Main Street Alliance met last month with State Senator Charleta Tavares (D)- District 15 at a roundtable discussion at a Columbus jewelry store. There, the group discussed the economic impact imposed on a family forced to lose income during a pregnancy and the ripple effect that has on their businesses.
As the group assured the Senator at that meeting, the member businesses of the Main Street Alliance of Ohio welcome a new set of rules and will gladly make simple accommodations to keep women working when they need it most, and allow them to participate in their local economy.
"The proposed requirements for employers are VERY minimal. I have many women working for me who become pregnant and subsequently deliver. They have proven to be hard working and responsible about maternity leave. Providing a place to breastfeed or "pump" is not a problem for us. We encourage time and bonding with their child. Being a woman-owned company I know firsthand how difficult it was for me," says Molly Dullea, owner of The General Denver Hotel.
" As a business owner and a father and grandfather. The goal of Senate Bill 301 is not to create a burden for businesses. The purpose is to reinforce what should already be happening, that businesses that can make reasonable accommodations are doing so, and that women are not forced to choose between their job and a healthy pregnancy,” says Mike Held, owner of The Old Trail Printing Company.
"The long-term repercussions of discriminating against pregnant women have more and more impact on the State budget than the temporary, reasonable accommodations we are asking employers to provide during pregnancy,” says LeAnne Absolom, owner of Peace Love Bling.
Is Vermont delivering on the promise of quality, affordable health care for women?
Families depend on both men and women to make ends meet. Women across Vermont are leading households and supporting families. It’s critical to make sure that all women are getting the health care they need to lead healthy, prosperous lives. As the World Bank says: Gender equality is smart economics.
The 2014 Women’s Health Report Card for Vermont underscores that we have a lot to be proud of — Vermont continues to lead the nation in women’s health. In the report card, Vermont was ranked No. 3 and earned a final grade of A. This report ranked all 50 states on 30 measures of women’s health, including coverage, access to care and health outcomes.
I was pleased to see this glowing grade as more evidence that Vermont is on the right track and is a leader in health care. However, I also took this opportunity to educate myself on Green Mountain Care — the next step in Vermont’s health care leadership. I’ll admit that I knew very little about the universal, publicly funded health care system outlined in Act 48. This is something to which the state of Vermont has already committed, and now I can comfortably say that I support this path forward and urge others to get educated.
So what is Vermont doing right? The positive strides of the Affordable Care Act expanded health coverage to more women through the new health insurance marketplaces and through Medicaid, improved coverage of preventive care, created stronger oversight of insurance rates, and increased quality improvement initiatives.
But can Vermont be doing better? Yes. There is room for improvement to ensure that all women in Vermont have access to the health care they need to lead healthy and prosperous lives — especially women of color. Our great report card cannot erase the truth that women of color in Vermont are still less likely to have health coverage, access to health care, and have poorer health.
Looking at the measures of women’s health by race, 6.1 percent of white women in Vermont report being uninsured. That percentage rises to 8.4 percent for black women and then jumps to 17.3 percent of Latinas. Additionally, 11.7 percent of elderly women earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level are uninsured along with 9 percent of those between 138 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level. These upsetting disparities will be erased if Vermont moves to Green Mountain Care in 2017. All Vermonters will have health insurance, just by virtue of being a Vermonter.
Vermont has a special opportunity to achieve the equality that is missing here and throughout the nation. There are many leaders working to balance the financing of this system; to translate the dollars we are already spending on health care into an equitable, universal system. This is enormously complicated, and the devil will truly be in the details. While not increasing the burden on individual Vermonters and Vermont businesses, we need all of our state leaders to side with women and communities of color to make their health a priority — to give our mothers, sisters and daughters full and fair opportunities that begin with quality, affordable health care.
Please join me in supporting our legislators’ commitment to work with the administration to finance Green Mountain Care. And let’s make an example of our state with a true system that is fairly financed, does not harm economic growth and achieves the equality we all deserve.
Stephanie Hainley is Chief Operating Officer at White and Burke Real Estate Investment Advisors in Burlington. She a founding board member at Main Street Alliance of Vermont and is past president of Burlington Business & Professional Women. This op-ed was originally published at the Barre Montpelier Times Argus and subsequently in the Burlington Free Press.
On June 20th, women small business leaders in Maine gathered together to talk about their experiences as women in the small business field and about the issues that matter most to them. The roundtable was organized by the Maine Small Business Coalition, a Main Street Alliance affiliate, and hosted by Dory Waxman, owner of Old Port Wool and Textile Company in Portland, Maine. Participants were joined by staff for Congressman Michaud.
Each woman shared their story of deciding to open a small business and some of the considerations that went into that decision. For many of them it was about feeling undervalued and underpaid in corporate environments, and having a vision not just for a better future for themselves and for their families, but also for their employees.
Adele Ngoy shared her story as an immigrant business owner. “Back home I had 30 people working for me but I had to leave all of that behind. When I left the Congo because of ethnic war, I began to work at David’s Bridal as a seamstress. I was so miserable because I knew it was below my level of work, so I left after 6 years. Then I went and found a job at another bridal boutique. One afternoon I charged a woman $400 for the alternations work I did on her dress. Later when I received my check, I saw that I was paid $300 for all the work I did that week. This was when I realized I wasn’t where I was supposed to be.”l-r, foreground facing camera: Heather Sanborn, Anne Verrill, Cathy Walsh
The roundtable focused attention on the issue of providing employees with a livable wage. All of those in attendance currently pay their employees well above the current minimum wage and noted that raising the minimum wage would create a level playing field with larger chains.
Business owners also discussed the need for a better healthcare system. They agreed that the Affordable Care Act has done many good things, but that more needs to be done to guarantee quality, affordable health insurance for everyone. “I personally like the idea of the single payer system because you care not beholden to your employer to pay your health insurance,” said Cathy Walsh, owner of Arabica Coffee House. “I feel so responsible for my employees as it is. Like them being able to make their rent. So not having to worry about their health insurance would be great.”
Other topics included scrapping the cap on Social Security, protecting our natural resources, addressing student loan debt, ending the outsourcing of jobs, and ending offshore tax loopholes that give large corporations an unfair advantage.