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NLF Highlights - Current Topics in Labor
Published by the Murphy Institute, CUNY
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New Labor Forum Highlights: Oct. 31st, 2016 

In this week’s newsletter, we look at one of the policy issues -- work and family -- that normally fails to receive the political attention it deserves. Ironically, during the first electoral season to feature a woman as major party candidate, these issues remained overshadowed by other far less policy oriented concerns.
We kick off our effort to highlight these issues with an assessment by Linda Gordon of Second Wave Feminism, which included a strong strand of Socialist Feminism that emphasized the intersection of gender, race, and class oppression. As such, this movement that peaked from the mid 1960s until the 1980s gave rise  to many of the work-family policy initiatives of today, including paid family and sick leave; affordable, high quality childcare; and equal pay for equal work.
We look at current progress toward those policy objectives here. In a Washington Post column, New Labor Forum Contributing Editor Ruth Milkman discusses Paid Family Leave as a key means of reducing wealth inequality.  Sharon Lerner, writing for In These Times, describes the financial, emotional, and health repercussions suffered by working-class American women, who unlike their counterparts throughout the world, deliver and raise children without the most fundamental supports. And we provide, from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a handy, brief analysis of gender pay gaps.

To close out this discussion, we look at the disparate promises regarding women’s and family issues being made by each of the two major party nominees for President. If the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill signed into law by President Obama, it’s reasonable ask what legislation is likely to garner the early support either a President Trump or a President Clinton.   


Table of Contents:

  1. Socialist Feminism: The Legacy of the “Second Wave” by Linda Gordon
  2. How a Lack of Paid Leave is Making Wealth Inequality Worse by Ruth Milkman
  3. The Real War on Families: Why the U.S. Needs Paid Leave Now by Sharon Lerner
  4. “The Economic Impact of Equal Pay by State” Status of Women in the States Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Feb 2016 
  5. Donald Trump Unveils Plan for Families in Bid for Women’s Votes by Nick Corasaniti and Maggie Haberman
  6. Clinton’s Platform: Women's Rights and Opportunity

Socialist Feminism: The Legacy of the “Second Wave”

by Linda Gordon

“Second wave” feminism was the largest social movement in U.S. history—at its peak, polls reported that a majority of U.S. women identified with it.[1] From the mid-1960s through its decline in momentum in the 1980s, it was also unusually long as social movements go.  A movement of that size naturally encompassed diverse strands, so, unsurprisingly, many scholars and journalists saw only parts of it, like the blind men feeling the elephant.
What’s more surprising is that leftists, mainstream scholars and journalists, and even right-wing adversaries have shared similar misconceptions.  One of these is missing the strong socialist feminist stream within women’s liberation.  This mistake is symbolized by the anointing of the protest at the Miss America beauty contest in 1969 as the founding moment of the movement. 

Read the full article here.

How a Lack of Paid Leave is Making Wealth Inequality Worse

by Ruth Milkman

The United States is famously exceptional in its failure to guarantee paid family leave to new parents. What is less well-known is that this failure contributes to the growing problem of income inequality, widening the gap in well-being between the haves and the have-nots.
In 21st-century America, paid leave is available to most upper-level employees, especially professionals and managers, when they become parents or need to care for a seriously ill family member. However, the nation’s burgeoning ranks of low-wage workers typically have no access whatsoever to any kind of paid leave. Instead, they are repeatedly forced to choose between earning a day’s pay and providing vital care to their families. When they choose the latter, they fall even further behind.

Read the full article here.

The Real War on Families: Why the U.S. Needs Paid Leave Now
by Sharon Lerner


Most people are aware that Americans have a raw deal when it comes to maternity leave. Perhaps they’ve heard about Sweden, with its drool-inducing 16 months of paid parental leave, or Finland, where, after about 9 months of paid leave, the mother or father can take—or split—additional paid “child care leave” until the child’s third birthday.

But most Americans don’t realize quite how out of step we are. It’s not just wealthy, social democratic Nordic countries that make us look bad. With the exception of a few small countries like Papua New Guinea and Suriname, every other nation in the world—rich or poor—now requires paid maternity leave.


Read the full article here.

“The Economic Impact of Equal Pay by State” Status of Women in the States Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Feb 2016


In 2016, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research published a fact-sheet on the impact of equal pay legislation on poverty and state economies. The short publication provides findings for different state economies but argues that if equal pay legislation was passed in each state, poverty for working women across the United States would decrease by half and over $482 billion dollars would be added to the U.S. economy.

Read the full article here.

Donald Trump Unveils Plan for Families in Bid for Women’s Votes 

by Nick Corasaniti and Maggie Haberman

TrumpThis past September, Donald Trump unveiled a menu of proposals to help working parents, calling for six weeks of mandatory paid maternity leave and expanded tax credits for child care. The proposals, represent a new attempt to court female voters who polls show have been alienated by his bombast and history of provocative remarks about women.

The candidate’s aides said his goals would be achieved through a change in the tax code to help pay for child care, to be detailed in another speech, probably this week. The main thrust of Mr. Trump’s plan involves a reordering of the tax code so working parents can take an income tax deduction for care of up to four children and older-adult dependents.

Read the full article here. 

Clinton’s Platform: Promoting Equality

ClintonHillary Clinton’s campaign platform addresses a number of issues that we’re talking about in this issue: paid family leave, paid sick days, the pay gap between men and women, and helping to make childcare more affordable.
Read the full article here. 

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