President Obama met with a group women lawmakers to discuss what he called the “burdens” faced by working women, issues that will be addressed at June White House Summit on Working Families.
“We know that women continue to be disproportionately represented in low-wage professions, which means that something like an increase in the federal minimum wage is going to have a disproportionate impact on them. And women are still the ones that are carrying the greatest burden when it comes to trying to balance family and work,” he said. “Because of inadequate childcare, or the inability to get paid leave for a sick child or an ailing parent, they end up suffering the burdens — and, by the way, that means families are suffering the burden, because, increasingly, women are a critical breadwinner for families all across the country.”
The meeting comes as Democrats across the country, from Wendy Davis, who is running for governor in Texas, to Alison Lundergan Grimes, who is running for a Senate seat in Kentucky, focus on the economy and push for an increase in the minimum wage and equal pay laws.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), one of the women at the meeting, praised the president for putting those issues at the forefront of his agenda. “As you know, the House and Senate women have been working on our agendas in this regard, reflecting the values and the approaches you have put forth. Thank you for mentioning in the State of the Union — when women succeed, America succeeds. It’s not a slogan; it’s a statement of fact,” she said. “That’s why when you talk you about paycheck fairness or you talk about paid sick leave and the work-family balance, and you talk about early childhood learning, you have initiatives in all of these areas. And as you said at the end, it’s really important — not just for women and families and men, but for our economy — that women succeed.”
Pelosi added a thank you to first lady Michelle Obama for her efforts, to which President Obama said:
“She’s on me about this all the time.”
The June 23 summit will include business leaders, mayors and governors, an approach that reflects Obama’s “pen and phone” strategy, an effort to make an end-run around a gridlocked Congress that likely won’t move any legislation during this tough election year. Obama as well as Democrats have called for a $10.10 minimum wage, but Republicans have balked at the hike, arguing that an increase would cost jobs.
Still, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), said Democrats plan to forge ahead:
“You mentioned that women earn 77 cents on the dollar. If you put that another way, women work for free until April Fool’s Day — and then we get our first check,” she said. “And that is an economic issue to women in America and one that we’re going to be addressing in the Senate very soon along with raising the minimum wage, which affects two-thirds of the people on minimum wage, as working women.”
In addition to Pelosi and Murray, attendees at Wednesday’s meeting included Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Also, Representatives Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), Donna Edwards (Md.), Lois Frankel (Fla.), Doris Matsui (Calif.), Chellie Pingree (Maine), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) and Nydia Velazquez (N.Y.)
Gillibrand tweeted afterward that she almost didn’t make it: