Submitted by Andrea Perrault

On Monday, May 19th, the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor held the Boston Forum on Working Families, one of several regional meetings prior to a Summit on Working Families to be held in Washington DC in September. Senator Elizabeth Warren was the first keynote speaker, followed by two other impressive women leaders, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Congresswoman Katherine Clark of Massachusetts.

Senator Warren greeted the crowd with a personal story about her own experience in trying to meet the challenges of raising a family and working. As a mother and new law school professor, she was feeling swamped and needed help to keep the work/life balance in check. Her Aunt Bea came to the rescue after hearing Elizabeth’s concern that she might not be able to handle the challenges. Acknowledging that most women don’t have an Aunt Bea to move in with the family, Sen. Warren identified that public policy solutions are needed and stated her priorities – the three issues central to her economic plan to help get the US economy to work for working families:

  1. Equal pay for equal work (the disparity is still quite uneven, especially for black and Hispanic women),
  2. Raise the minimum wage (statistics show that women are most affected by low minimum wage rates), and
  3. Address the college debt crisis (college loans are now exempt from refinancing; Sen. Warren is working to change the interest rate to 3.86% ).

As the Ethical Society of Boston signs on to the call for increasing the minimum wage, and as members and friends now are getting signatures for the needed petitions, we can know that we are active in supporting Senator Warren’s goals.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut kept the high energy discussion going with her enthusiastic calls for pay equity, work/life balance enhancements, and more adequate child care. Congresswoman Clark, newly elected in the MA 5th district has joined the efforts of her colleagues by signing on to Senator Warren’s and Cong. DeLauro’s initiatives. Clark’s first legislative effort will address the need to expand child care. She cited that of the 6M children under the age of three, 46% live in poverty. In Massachusetts, 30 thousand families are on wait lists for child care, yet the child care block grant has not been reissued since 1996.

It was inspiring to hear the three dynamic and collaborative members of Congress address the group convened in Boston. I hope their energy is felt at the Summit on Working Families in September, and that the legislative remedies that they propose will be enacted. It would be gratifying to see that members of Congress can work to improve the lives of all Americans.