Seizing Electoral Power, Women Demand 'Solutions as Complex as Our Existence'
"Women's economic well-being doesn't hinge on any single issue but rather the intersection of several," declares We Won't Wait coalition
More than 1,000 activists and organizers are gathering this week in Maryland to help advance a comprehensive economic agenda for women—one that calls for universal healthcare, affordable child and elder care, wholesale immigration and criminal justice reform, reproductive justice, and sensible gun control, among other things.
The We Won't Wait summit is centered around "an economic security agenda meant to address the fact that women's economic well-being doesn't hinge on any single issue but rather the intersection of several," according to a press statement sent ahead of the two-day event in National Harbor, Maryland.
As one participant wrote on Twitter:
— Lucy Y. Recio (@lucyrecio) September 19, 2016
In particular, the effort seeks to engage women of color and low-income women in the 2016 election campaign, and to make candidates responsive to their needs.
"Women of color are key to the outcome to every election, but even with those numbers our issues are often forgotten," Tracy Sturdivant, a spokeswoman for the campaign, told the Washington Post last month. "This election cycle it is so important for us to focus on all of these issues from an intersectional frame."
While the nonpartisan campaign will not make any endorsements, several aspects of the We Won't Wait platform are in direct conflict with that of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
Consider the matter of paid family leave. The We Won't Wait agenda calls for 12 weeks of guaranteed and paid family and medical leave "so that all parents can take paid time off when they are caring for a new child, for a seriously ill family member, or recovering from their own serious illness."
MomsRising co-founder and executive director Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner—who spoke to summit attendees on Monday morning—wrote in a blog post last week:
The wages of moms fuel our economy. Yet lack of adequate paid family leave and affordable child care are part of the reason we have the women's and mothers' wage gaps, which lower the consumer spending that is the foundation of our national economy.
"Solutions are necessary," she wrote, before lamenting that Trump's paid leave proposal "falls far short."
"To start, he provides no new funding," Rowe-Finkbeiner explained, "it's limited to only new birth mothers, and he's proposing to raid an already underfunded unemployment system."
His child care policy proposal, too, missed the mark, Rowe-Finkbeiner said: "In fact, his proposals for child care would force families, whose budgets are already breaking from the high cost of care, to pay costs upfront. This means that Mr. Trump's plan does nothing to make child care affordable—you cannot deduct something you cannot pay for to begin with. Millions of working families—families for whom the investment in childcare would bring the most critical returns to our economy—would be left out in the cold."
Groups involved in We Won't Wait effort include the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Make It Work, Caring Across Generations, Family Values @ Work, Forward Together/Strong Families, Ms. Foundation For Women, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC), MomsRising, and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation/Black Women's Roundtable. U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.) and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez are also scheduled to speak this week.
Follow the summit under the hashtag #WeWontWait2016.
Meanwhile, the netroots women's organization UltraViolet on Monday began circling a mobile billboard around NBC News' Washington, D.C. office, calling on 2016 debate moderators to ask presidential candidates questions about women's issues including gun control and abortion rights.
"With the first female major party candidate in history, women's issues and sexism have played a huge role in the presidential election so far this year. We simply cannot afford for Presidential debate moderators to continue ignoring the issues that are most important to American women," explained UltraViolet co-founder Nita Chaudhary.
"From equal pay, to abortion access, to basic protections for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault—the media has consistently dropped the ball on issues important to women voters," Chaudhary said. "It's time to stop ignoring these critical topics. The moderators of the 2016 presidential debates need to listen to women and ask the tough questions that matter to more than half of America's electorate."
Notably, the second annual Black Women's Roundtable/ESSENCE poll of black women voters, released Monday, showed a "dramatic increase" in concern about criminal justice reform in the lead up to the November election.
"Affordable health care remains #1, but criminal justice has climbed eight percentage points from 2015 as the #2 priority equal to living wage jobs for black women overall," said Melanie L. Campbell, convener of the Black Women's Roundtable and president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.