Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What does pay equity mean for us, our daughters, and our granddaughters?

April 28th is Pay Equity Day -- not a day to celebrate because we haven't achieved equity yet. Rather, it's a day to remind ourselves of the facts and reflect on the impact of those facts on the lives of those we care about. In 1963, when John Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law, baby boomers were just beginning to think seriously about careers. At that time woman earned 59 cents for each dollar earned by a man. Nationally, today, it's 78 cents for every dollar, and in New York, it's 81 cents/dollar.

Over the course of a lifetime, that can mean more than a million dollars. It impacts our Social Security payments, our pensions, and our savings. It's the reason so many older women live in poverty after their partners die. It impacts all those children supported by single mothers and all those families where the wife is now the sole breadwinner because her husband has lost his job.

The strange thing is many of us are unaware that the pay gap has an impact on us. Young women graduating from college today don't realize that their male peers with the same qualifications are starting out at higher rates and that the difference compounds every year. Women working in organizations that publish their pay scales don't realize that men are hired at the top of the scale more frequently, while women think it's only natural to start at the bottom.

And, women tend to abide by the rules, "Don't discuss your salary with anyone." That's how Lilly Ledbetter worked her whole career supervising a plant of 4000 on the night shift, garnering more awards, and better evaluations than her male peer, while earning thousands of dollars less than even the most recent hire. It was an anonymous note stuck in her locker that brought the discrepancy to her attention.

How does the pay gap affect you, your daughter, your granddaughter, your wife, your mother, your girlfriend?

Join us tonight at 7 pm, Kingston Library, to discuss the pay gap and its impact on us all.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

OK, I'm paid less. Now what? - Equal Pay for Women - Redbook

Redbook in 1913Image via Wikipedia

Redbook Magazine featured an article on the pay gap this month. I liked their suggestions about what to do if you find out you are getting paid less than your male counterparts.

Why Women Are Worth Less Than Men - Equal Pay for Women - Redbook: "How to Earn What You're Worth

1. Do your research. To find out how much you'd earn in your job position if you were a man, go to wageproject.org and punch your info into the 'Getting Even Calculator.'

2. Schedule a meeting with your boss, and then prepare. Outline a presentation about why you feel your current pay is unfair to you as a woman. Include facts and/or numbers that you found in your research, and be clear about your requests. Anticipate issues your boss might raise, and plan your responses. To bolster your confidence, go to wageproject.org and read stories from women who faced wage discrimination and stood up against it.

3. Gain strength in numbers. Talk to other women at your office who also believe they're not being paid equitably. Work together to recommend how the wage gap can be closed at your company. It is often most powerful to go to your boss as a group to present complaints and recommendations for change."

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Eleanor Roosevelt's Leadership

Here are a few pictures from our March 28th meeting at ValKill, Eleanor Roosevelt's home in Hyde Park, NY. We spent a wonderful day there. Kathleen Durham, executive director of the Eleanor Roosevelt ValKill Center, and Garnette Arledge, president of the Kingston branch, shared anecdotes and information about Eleanor's style of leadership and how she overcame her natural shyness. Many of the leadership lessons came from Robin Gerber's book, Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way.
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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Dollars and sense of lever voting

Faced with a massive fiscal crisis, many New Yorkers are incensed with the NY State Legislature's mandate to scrap trustworthy levers in favor of costly optical-scan computers with a history of hacking and breakdowns common to all computers.

Turning concern into action, New Yorkers are petitioning their county legislators to pass resolutions urging state legislators to save our levers. So far, four counties -- Columbia, Dutchess, Schuyler, and Ulster -- have done so. On April 20, Greene County's legislators will vote on whether to pass a save-our-levers resolution. Other counties are expected to follow suit soon. Towns are also taking action. New York's Association of Towns, which represents about half the state's population, was one of the first to pass a resolution urging the state to keep lever voting in New York.

As Irene Miller, AAUW Kingston Public Policy Chair and founder of NY Citizens for Clean Elections, explains, "A great many New Yorkers are truly angry that our elected state officials are forcing counties to go with computer voting when our levers now comply with the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Despite the great threat computer voting poses for the safety of our vote, our state legislators are unnecessarily forcing taxpayers to shoulder millions not just for the initial cost of computers but also the recurring costs for staff training, on-call technicians, paper ballots, recounts, troubleshooting, maintenance, upgrades, and more."

Optical-scan computers cost between $11,000 and $12,000 each, with the total cost varying with each county. According to Mary Jo Jaeger, Deputy Budget Officer for Greene County, the cost for Green County came to $352,500 for 30 machines. Of this, she said, the county paid 5%, which came to $17,625. The other 95% was paid with federal monies. However, she says, that was only for the initial purchase of the machines. Her office has not yet compiled the figures for future operations of the computers, which will be the county's full responsibility.

Greene County Elections Commissioner Thomas Burke agrees that the levers are better and cheaper than optical scan computers. But, he says, since New York's counties have already bought the computers, "we should resign ourselves."

A question posed by Miller and other citizens is, "Why, if Commissioner Burke agrees that levers are better and cheaper, should taxpayers be saddled with bills that will tally far more than $17,625 for the much higher costs of operation in years to come? Why not consider that money a bad investment and cut the future drain on the budget right now?"

The problem, says Commissioner Burke, is that "the state leaves the counties no choice." The only recourse, he says, is litigation.

The reason counties have no choice is that NY State's Election Reform and Modernization Act (ERMA) mandates a switch to computerized voting, ostensibly to comply with HAVA, says Miller. But, she adds, "ERMA was passed in 2005, before New York installed ballot marking devices (BMDs) in 2008 for people with special needs in every polling place. Augmented with BMDs, our levers became fully compliant with HAVA. I and a great many New Yorkers hope the state will come to its senses and fix ERMA, especially in this unprecedented budget crunch "

If the state rescinds the ERMA mandate for computer voting, litigation would not be necessary. But if the state does not heed the counties' and citizens' urgings to remove the ERMA mandate, litigation is likely.

Attorney Andi Novick, Founder and Legal Counsel to the Re-Media Election Transparency Coalition of organizations across the state, is prepared to put forth a suit. After a great deal of legal research into New York State constitutional and election law, she is convinced that, "ERMA's lock into computer voting violates New York's Constitution, which requires an observable electoral process in which every step is transparent to both election officials and citizen watchers. Our lever system fulfills this, but computers do not."

Novick also takes issue with claims that certification of computers makes them safe. "Dozens of studies by computer scientists at major universities have shown that there is no way to guarantee the security of computer voting even if a computer is certified because computers can be programmed to function one way for certification testing and another during actual elections. "

Nor do voter verified paper ballots make computer voting safe. Novick says this is clearly demonstrated in the HBO documentary Hacking Democracy, which shows how optical-scan software can be programmed to internally switch voters' ballot choices without a trace.

Contact: Irene Miller, 518-678-3516,

4/3/09: Health Care Forum in Kingston

Health care for all -- yes!
Now how do we get there?

Universal Health Care Forum
to highlight health care policy
options and action agenda
7 PM on Friday, April 3
St. John's Episcopal Church
207 Albany Avenue, Kingston

Most Americans agree that the time has come for universal health care for all. The question is how to make that a reality now. The issues are complex and difficult. Join us at this forum, where we will explore universal health care options and find ways each of us can work toward making health care for all a reality.

The expert panel will feature:

- Jessica Wisneski, Legislative Campaign Director of Citizen Action of New York, representing the perspective of Health Care for America, champions of the Obama health plan

- Len Rodberg , Ph.D., from Physicians for National Health Plan, advocate for a single-payer universal system of health insurance

Attendees will hear brief, expert presentations and will be able to discuss and debate the policies with the panel. The session will conclude with ways that citizens can make their voice heard on health care policy.

The forum is co-sponsored by Saugerties Committee for Peace and Social Justice, Hudson Valley Progressive Coalition, American Association of University Women - Kingston Branch, Ulster County Democratic Committee, and Citizens for Clean Elections.

For more information, call:
Sue Rosenberg (845-246-3449)

or Lanny Walter (845-246-4668)