America’s economic success depends more than ever on the financial security of women, who now make up nearly half the country’s workforce. We must ensure that all women have access to equal economic opportunity and reliable women's healthcare if we want our country to succeed.
While about 40 percent of women are their family’s main breadwinners, they still face discriminatory policies and make up two-thirds of all minimum-wage earners. Women are underpaid, don't get enough paid leave, and often face more financially-draining health care hurdles. I authored or sponsored several pieces of legislation to end these economic inequalities that millions of women face every day, including:
1) RAISE THE MINIMUM WAGE: In Florida, about 6 in 10 Florida workers who earn that paltry salary are women. I introduced legislation to lift the federal minimum wage to $10.50 an hour. That would give more than 15 million women workers a much-needed raise. The Catching Up To 1968 Act of 2013 would also close the gap that tipped employees, such as waitresses and other servers, face every day. Seventy percent of these servers are women, and this vital service workforce is three times more likely to end up in poverty, and twice as often left to rely on food stamps.
2) EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL WORK: On average, women earn only about 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. In order to correct this, I co-sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act which put tougher workplace protections in place for women, and closed loopholes that allowed pay-discrimination to continue. I also helped pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which restored women's right to challenge pay discrimination in court.
3) PROVIDE AMERICAN WORKERS WITH PAID LEAVES: Only 12% of US workers have paid family leave through their employers - but sooner or later, nearly all workers need to take time off from work to deal with a serious personal or family illness. Lack of paid leave exacerbates the financial hardships that many women already face. That’s why I co-sponsored the Healthy Family Act, which would allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick days annually, and the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act of 2013 for family leave. These bills would ensure that women do not have to choose between a paycheck, and caring for themselves or a loved one. I also introduced the Paid Vacation Act to provide workers with at least one week of paid leave annually.
4) WOMEN'S EQUALITY: I co-sponsored H.J. Res. 56, which proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the United States establishing equal rights for men and women. This constitutional amendment prohibits denying or abridging equality of rights under the law by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
5) WOMEN'S HEALTH: Five male, conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that for-profit corporations can refuse to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees – even though such coverage does not require anyone to dispense or use birth control. This decision was a gross assault on workers’ rights. But the decision singles out women’s health for discrimination, and jeopardizes their access to health care. Fortunately, I co-sponsored the Protect Women from Corporate Interference Act, also known as the ‘Not My Boss’ Business Act. This legislation would make it illegal for any company to deny its workers specific health benefits, including contraceptive coverage, and would ensure that employees’ access to critical health services is not at the mercy of their bosses’ religious beliefs.
6) I Co-Sponsored the Breast Cancer Patient Protection Act of 2009. The bill required that group health plans provide medical and surgical benefits to ensure that inpatient (and in the case of a lumpectomy, outpatient) coverage and radiation therapy were provided for breast cancer treatment.
7) I Co-Sponsored the Equal Rights for Health Care Act. This bill prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability status against any person in the United States under any health care service or research program or activity receiving federal financial assistance, including Medicare and Medicaid.
8) Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can no longer drop women from their insurance just for getting sick, or becoming pregnant. Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to women with pre-existing conditions, such as breast cancer. I voted for the Affordable Care Act, and voted against dozens of Republican efforts to repeal the law.
9) I Co-Sponsored Accelerating the End of Breast Cancer Act of 2013, which created the Commission to Accelerate the End of Breast Cancer to identify promising opportunities, tools, technology and ideas not currently being prioritized for breast cancer by the public and private sectors.
10) INVEST IN WOMEN: Only one-quarter of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs are held by women, yet women who enter STEM careers earn 33 percent more than those in non-STEM fields. Expanding economic opportunity means that we must first expand educational opportunities for women. I successfully passed an amendment to the Cybersecurity Enhancement Act that provided for increased participation for women in those STEM sectors where women are woefully underrepresented. I also added community colleges, such as Valencia Community College, to the list of eligible institutions for receiving federal scholarship grants under the same program. Four million women make up 58 percent of community college students.
11) PROTECTING WOMEN: I helped pass a renewal of the Violence Against Women Act after Republicans stalled the measure for months. The legislation created and expanded federal programs that support local law enforcement and aid victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, and also offered protections for gay, bisexual and transgender domestic abuse victims.