Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summit on Working Families

On Monday, June 23rd, 2014, the White House Council on Women and Girls, The Department of Labor, and the Center for American Progress hosted a Summit on Working Families. The Summit convened policymakers, economists, advocates, business leaders, and workers to discuss policy solutions which can strengthen the economy through strengthening the stability of the working family. Though working families were the topic of discussion, the focus unsurprisingly often came upon working women, who would be disproportionately affected by the policy solutions discussed.


Working families are increasingly dependent on the income of women to make ends meet.
Reported at the summit, women today make up 47% of the workforce with married women bringing home 44% of their families’ income on average and 40% of mothers acting as the sole or primary source of income for the household. However, policy fails to guarantee that workers will experience equal pay or equal protection in the workplace or will have the flexibility to maintain a healthy work/family life balance. As stated in the description of the event, the special focus on women is merited because while “all workers will directly benefit from better workplace policy, the impact will be greatest for working women and their families.”


The White House Council of Economic Advisors released three reports relevant to the discussions of the Summit, “Nice Facts about American Families and Work”, “The Economics of Paid and Unpaid Leave” and “Work-Life Balance and the Economics of Workplace Flexibility”, which laid the foundation for a conversation of how policy can ensure that for American workers. The Summit proposed “A Year of Action”, a collection of policy priorities for the next year which would change the workplace to support the changing demographics of working families. Goals include expanding workplace flexibility and empowering workers, increasing access to affordable childcare, making progress toward solutions for paid leave, closing the pay gap by increasing access to non-traditional occupations, expanding tax credits that support working families, and encouraging the private sector in efforts to bring solutions to more workplaces. Policy solutions implied by these goals include but are not limited to increasing access to paid parental leave and paid sick leave, expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit and guaranteeing access to universal preschool programs.


If the Summit were successful in achieving its goals, America’s workers, especially women, would experience a dramatic shift in their economic stability and freedom. However, the politics surrounding these policies may obstruct the path to success. Despite the vast majority of Americans supporting policies like paid sick leave, American Prospect author Sharon Lerner points out these policy suggestions have faced decades of political turmoil in “Get Sick, Get Fired: America’s Low-Wage Workers Push Back”. If this deadlocked Congress fails to make progress in strengthening workplace policy in the coming months, this midterm election cycle may be America’s chance to elect a Congress who will.

Allysha Roth, MWPC Intern