Living In a Historic Moment
A letter from our CEO

Many of you have lived through historic moments. You can pinpoint where you were or what you felt when Brown v. Board of Education integrated schools in 1954, when the Equal Pay Act passed in 1963, when the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964, in 1973 when Roe v. Wade gave women agency over their bodies, or in 1992 when Anita Hill dared to speak her truth.

ALL these victorious moments were made possible because of visions and dreams; resistance and agitation; organizing and mobilization; and institutionalization. There were people agitating on the streets and within the halls of Congress. There were discussions at family dinner tables and in community town hall meetings. It has always been an inside/out game. What we are seeing today is no different.

How many times were women fighting for the right to vote met with individuals who felt they were radical, or dangerous to the American way of life? Dr. King and the leaders of the civil rights movement were NOT met with open arms when their resistance began. They were met with violence and disdain. This moment…these protestors and antagonists, these youth…are no different than those who came before them. No matter how revisionists replay history.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was accosted in the workplace by a co-worker because she is a woman and Latina. Mayor Keisha Bottoms is being harassed by a “superior” because she is a woman and Black. How are we going to stand for them and all the women representing all of us in places and spaces of power and influence? What will be written about us when those who come after talk about this moment?
During our Roundtable of Sisterhood event last week, we discussed the inextricable link between gender and racial equity and how one cannot exist without the other. In this moment, we have to determine as a women’s movement who we are going to be. Where do we stand? Who are we standing with, and what will we fight for? What is the work we must do to gain gender equity for ALL women?

We are continuing this important dialogue with two more Roundtable of Sisterhood conversations on August 13th and Sept 17th , and I hope you will join us . And, to realize change, we need to pair conversation with action. This issue of WE-Zine is full of ways you can engage in activism as we continue our fight for Equity for All.

Stay safe and be well,
Cherita Ellens, CEO
Take Action for Paid Sick Days
COVID-19 has made it all the more clear how vital paid sick time is to the health and wellbeing of working people and their families. But in Illinois, more than 1.5 million working people don’t have access to a single paid sick day. Women Employed is working to change that. But we need your help. Download our toolkit, with easy actions you can take to advocate for paid sick days for working people in Illinois.
Re-Opening Schools Presents Challenges for Workplace Equity
There has been much debate around whether and how to re-open K-12 schools in the fall. Teachers and school staff across the country have voiced concerns about bringing children back into the classrooms, arguing that it puts kids and school employees at risk. Parents are also navigating uncharted waters, and the health, emotional wellbeing, and livelihoods of families hang in the balance. In-person, digital, and hybrid approaches to learning all pose particular challenges to working parents. And much of the burden is falling on mothers—especially Black and brown mothers—who are disproportionately the caregivers in their families, and who are also often the breadwinners. These parents are making impossible choices while trying to balance their work responsibilities and employers’ expectations with the needs of their families including their children’s education. Many will be faced with making the choice between their jobs and their children.

One major player has been absent from the public conversation around schools reopening—employers. Employers can, and must, play an active role in advancing equity in the workplace. Working parents should not have to worry about losing workplace flexibility, or whether they can take paid leave to care for themselves and their loved ones. They shouldn’t have to leave the workforce because the child care systems they rely on are collapsing or because they aren’t able to balance online lessons, workload, and Zoom meetings. 

There are also specific federal and local policy proposals that we must work towards to create more viable options for working moms: extending Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and the Paycheck Protection Program, passing emergency and permanent paid sick days, investing in child care, and passing the HEROES Act, to start. Women Employed is working towards these goals. Take action to join us.
New Protections for Chicago Workers Now in Effect
Two new laws expanding protections for working people went into effect in Chicago on July 1st. The Fair Workweek ordinance requires many employers to post schedules at least two weeks in advance, provide at least 10 hours of rest between shifts, provide compensation to employees whose shifts are cancelled with less than 24-hours notice, and more. The new ordinance also protects workers from retaliation if they have to take time off because they are sick with or have been exposed to COVID-19, or if they are caring for someone else who is sick with COVID-19.

The minimum wage in Chicago also increased this month to $13.50/hour for businesses with between 4 and 20 employees, and to $14 for businesses with 21 or more employees, as part of a plan to gradually increase the city’s minimum wage to $15/hour. The sub-minimum wage for tipped workers also increased to $8.10 for employers with 4 to 20 employees, and to $8.40 for employers with 21 or more employees. In the rest of Illinois, the minimum wage increased on July 1st to $10/hour, and the sub-minimum tipped wage increased to $6/hour.

Women Employed advocated for both of these victories, alongside our partners and supporters. These laws will improve the lives of thousands of working people and families in Chicago and Illinois.  
No Salary History Works!
For years, you fought alongside Women Employed for a No Salary History law in Illinois, to prevent employers from asking job applicants for their current or past wages. It’s a common practice that perpetuates both gender and racial wage gaps. We won that battle last July when Governor Pritzker signed the bill into law, and it went into effect in September of 2019.

Well, the research is in . According to a new study by Boston University, salary history bans raise the wages of all working people, but women and Black workers see the largest boosts. When salary history bans are in effect, women changing jobs see an 8% increase in pay, and Black workers see an 18% increase. That’s huge!

We are thrilled to see this simple measure, which YOU helped us win in Illinois with your steadfast advocacy, has such a striking impact on wage inequities. Want to learn more about your rights under the No Salary History law in Illinois? Check out our toolkit!
Don't Let COVID Relief Expire for Millions of Working People
Essential Workers
On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law, which provided enhanced unemployment insurance to millions of workers who were furloughed, laid off, or found themselves without work because of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the key supports that CARES created was Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, a supplemental $600/week for unemployed workers. This benefit is set to expire at the END OF JULY—in just a few days time!—so we need to ask Congress to extend it until the nationwide unemployment crisis is under control.

Without the extension, as many as 30 million working people and their families will lose this crisis supplement, leaving scores of people unable to cover basic living costs like rent, utilities, and food.

A Fair Tax Means Fair Funding for Our Communities
This November, Illinois voters have the opportunity to vote for a Fair Tax amendment to the state constitution, which will eliminate the requirement that Illinois tax income at a single rate. 

Why does that matter?  Because it means those making a higher income—those who can most afford it—can be taxed at a higher rate, while those making lower incomes can be taxed at a lower rate. Under this plan, 97% of taxpayers will actually get a tax  cut,  putting more money in the pockets of middle- and low-income families. Only the top 3%—those making more than $250,000 a year—will see an increase, being asked to pay their fair share. 
The best part? This reform will help Illinois raise more than $3 billion a year that can be put towards paying our state’s bills and funding programs and services that Illinois families need—things like need-based financial aid, education, health care, human services, and more.
Learn more at , and vote YES in November.
Advancing Racial Equity in Developmental Education
Each year, more than 60,000 Illinois students start college deemed “not college ready.” These students are required to take a remediation (or developmental education) class—or sequences of classes—that uses their financial aid, does not count toward their credential or degree, and slows them down. Too many students—disproportionately Black and brown students—get stuck and never get their college degrees.

Last year, Women Employed and The Partnership for College Completion won a resolution in Illinois to create a Developmental Education Task Force to address the problems with our state’s post-secondary remedial education system. We recently wrapped up the first year of that task force , which has developed a set of recommendations to push our state forward. Building on this first step, we will continue to work alongside state agencies and partner organizations to advance the conversation around racial equity in higher education.
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