In January 2017, a bill (H. 136) was introduced in the Vermont Legislature that would ensure healthy pregnant workers in Vermont receive reasonable workplace accommodations such as having access to water, access to a stool or a chair, longer or more frequent restroom breaks, or avoiding heavy lifting. The bill was signed into law May 4th!
Read the new law here.
Read VCW's testimony on H.136 here.
Read VCW’s press release, New Protections for Pregnant Workers here.
Read VCW's policy brief for more information about these protections.
SPOUSAL SUPPORT AND MAINTENANCE TASKFORCE
At the end of the 2017 legislative session, VCW was placed on an 8-member Spousal Support and Maintenance Task Force created for the purpose of reviewing and making legislative recommendations to Vermont’s alimony laws. As well as research and information, VCW collected and presented the stories of Vermont women on this issue at a taskforce public hearing in November.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND ASSAULT IN THE WORKPLACE
VCW Commissioner Lisa Senecal joined Judy Woodruff on PBS NewsHour along with Fatima Goss Graves of the National Women's Law Center, Melissa Silverstein of Women & Hollywood, and Leigh Gilmore of Wellesley College to discuss sexual harassment, assault, and the #MeToo campaign. Commissioner Senecal continues to write and speak out as a national thought leader on this issue in USA Today, National Public Radio, the Daily Beast and other media outlets.
SEN. LEAHY’S WEOC 2017: WOMEN’S ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY CONFERENCE
VCW serves on the planning committee of Senator Leahy’s free and fabulous conference every year. 500 registered for the September 2017 event and our initiative, Change The Story served as the theme and focus of lively workshops and discussions on how to improve women’s economic status. VCW’s Cary Brown lead the afternoon session with data and information from Change The Story, VCW Commissioner Colin Ryan shared his dual powers of storytelling and galvanizing action in that same PM session. Pictured (L to R) Change The Story's Jessica Nordhaus, Marcelle Leahy, Sen. Leahy, Vermont Women's Fund Director Meg Smith, Change The Story's Tiffany Blumele, VCW Director Cary Brown.
Child marriage occurs when one or both parties are under 18 years old at the time of the marriage, and it happens in the U.S., and it's legal in every state, including Vermont. 57,800 minors aged 15 to 17 were married in the U.S. in 2014. Approximately 90% of the children married in recent years were girls. Read VCW's new policy brief here.
The wage gap tends to grow during the course of a career. Raises, bonuses, and even salaries at new jobs are frequently based on current earnings and salary history; for women and minorities already being paid less, this perpetuates the wage gap. In Vermont, a bill (H.294) was introduced that would prohibit employers from requesting or requiring an applicant’s salary history until after they’ve made an offer for employment, including an initial salary offer. Read VCW's info sheet for more information.
EQUAL PAY DAY 2017
Tuesday, April 4th was Equal Pay Day. Throughout the nation, women’s organizations observe Equal Pay Day each April, symbolizing how far into the new year the average American woman would have to work to earn what the average American man did in the previous year due to the gender wage gap. Events at the State House included an Equal Pay Day “Women and Leadership” Press Conference at 12:00 in the Cedar Creek Room. Advocates for equal pay at this press conference addressed the gender wage gap and unveiled Change The Story's new “Vermont Women and Leadership” report. Change The Story is an initiative of the Vermont Commission on Women (VCW), the Vermont Women’s Fund, and Vermont Works for Women designed to fast-track women’s economic status in our state. The report reveals new data about participation of women in various leadership roles in Vermont, including federal, state and municipal government, Abenaki Nations, academia, law enforcement, and the corporate and non-profit sectors. By some measures, Vermont is a national pacesetter in its share of women in key leadership positions. By others, women’s leadership status lags behind other states. Overall, Vermont women have yet to achieve equal representation as leaders in any but a few political, civic or professional realms.
The press conference featured: Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson, State Treasurer Beth Pearce, Vermont Tech President Pat Moulton, Melody Brook of the Abenaki Women's Council and VT Commission on Native American Affairs, Joe Fusco of UVM's Grossman School of Business and VP at Casella Waste Systems, Jen Kimmich Co-founder/Owner of The Alchemist, and VCW Executive Director, Cary Brown. Members of Women’s Caucus of the Legislature, the League of Women Voters of VT, VT Federation of Business and Professional Women joined the group of approximately 100 present. Advocates wore the traditional red to symbolize women being “in the red” due to the gender wage gap on this day. Read the report here. Read more about this event in the press release here. Watch a video of the Equal Pay Day Press Conference here. Additional Equal Pay Day events included:
Equal Pay Day Resolution. Link to: House Concurrent Resolution 97, a resolution recognizing Equal Pay Day
Equal Pay Day Proclamation Signing | 11:30 AM | Governor’s ceremonial office. Read the proclamation here.
Equal Pay Day Facebook Event Page link here.
Sen. Sanders' Equal Pay Day statement, here.
Watch our Facebook stream video from this event below:
WOMEN AND 1970'S COUNTERCULTURE, 2017 Women's History Month Event
The 1970s saw incredible advancements in public engagement with, and recognition of, women’s rights. This flowering of second-wave feminism had a far-reaching impact on American society. What was it like for women who participated in the counterculture during that time? What challenges did they face, and what opportunities did they find? How was women’s experience in Vermont unique, and what did it share with the rest of the country? How does it relate to the current generation of young women? In our annual partnership with the Vermont Historical Society (VHS) to honor Women's History Month (March), we presented this free evening roundtable discussion, "Women of the Counterculture Movement in 1970s Vermont" at the Vermont History Center in Barre. Rescheduled (due to winter storm) to Wednesday, March 22nd at 6:00. This event was moderated by Amanda Gustin, Vermont Historical Society's Public Program Coordinator, and featured Euan Bear, Bridget Downey-Meyer, Louise Andrews, Melinda Moulton and Verandah Porche, reflecting on what brought them into this movement, what their experience was like, and what lasting impact it’s had on their own lives and on Vermont society. A truly engaging and provocative discussion!
Watch the video of this event, thanks to Central Vermont Community Television.
Read historian Cyndy Bittinger's Women of the Counterculture in 1970s Vermont piece from Vermont Woman's April/May 2017 Issue.
VPR's Women's History Month 2017 Commentary Series
Along with the Vermont Historical Society, we're also honored to work with Vermont Public Radio offering this annual corresponding-themed commentary series:
*panelists at our event. Special note: Melinda serves as a VCW Commissioner. Read more about past women's history month celebrations and themes here. More 2017 Counterculture event details on our Facebook event page here.
CONFISCATION OF DANGEROUS OR DEADLY WEAPONS BILL
VCW testified on House bill H. 422, a bill proposing to provide removal of deadly weapons from the scene of an incident of domestic violence. Read our testimony here.
PAID FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE INSURANCE BILL
VCW's Cary Brown spoke at the introduction of H.196, bill proposing to create a Family Leave Insurance Program within the Department of Labor that will provide employees with 12 weeks of paid family leave and that will be funded by contributions from employers and employees. Cary's comments included findings from VCW's feasibility study: “Women in Vermont are already lagging behind men in their earnings, part of the reason why this is true is because there’s a disproportionate expectation that women will be the ones who’ll take time off from work, take time out of the workforce in order to care for babies, children, aging parents, other family members. Just in general, women are taking on more of those responsibilities. Paid family and medical leave insurance is one way to help offset that disproportionality. This was why VCW sought and received a grant from US DOL to conduct a feasibility study. We came up with some interesting findings: new moms with access to paid family leave work more hours, and return to work…They are 39 % less likely to rely on public assistance. That would translate to up to $271,000 savings to Vermonters. Additionally, in Vermont we’d see a $277,000 savings in costs due to infants being born healthy…and if we had a program, between 2 and 3.4 million dollars Vermont families would save, due to reduced child care costs. We could see an estimated 1800 Vermonters elevated above the poverty threshold, who would otherwise be below.”
Watch an Orca Media video of the press conference here.
View VCW's feasibility study presentation, submitted to committee considering H.196, the House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs, here.
Read the full study report, also submitted the Committee, here.
In the U.S., 47 states have a sales tax, and most of those apply the tax to the sale of feminine hygiene products. Some states apply a luxury tax to these products. Taxation of feminine hygiene products has garnered international attention in recent years, and Connecticut, New York, Illinois, and Canada passed legislation to exclude feminine hygiene products from tax in 2016. In 2017, a number of states are considering bills that would do the same. In Vermont, a bill (H.43) has been introduced that would add feminine hygiene products to the list of items excluded from sales tax. Read VCW's fact sheet for more information.
VCW was asked to testify on H.63 and H.93, bills address raising the minimum wage. VCW's Executive Director Cary Brown provided information about how this legislation might impact women. Read her testimony here. A few data highlights from the testimony:
• In Vermont, women working full-time are 1.3 times as likely as men to earn less than $10.10 an hour
• Women in Vermont are over twice as likely as men to work in part-time jobs which are more likely to pay minimum wage.
• A higher minimum wage is linked to smaller pay gaps between men and women.
In our February 8th meeting, VCW voted to become a member of the Vermont Raise the Wage Coalition.
LEARN ABOUT CHANGE THE STORY VERMONT - WATCH THIS:
VCW'S CARY BROWN ON COMCAST NEWSMAKERS SHOW
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Easy to use, easy to add events to, and super mobile-friendly, this new calendar feature is an extension of VCW’s efforts to facilitate collaboration between Vermont organizations doing work with women and girls, and to increase public awareness and participation of these activities.