A Fair Shot for Working Families in 2016
Comparing the Democratic and Republican Conventions
By: Sunny Frothingham
At both the Democratic and Republican national conventions, we heard commitments to giving working families the opportunity to succeed, but the policy implications behind those visions are radically different.
For American working families to get ahead, not just get by, we need policies that reflect the modern workplace. At a time where more families rely on two incomes to make ends meet and don’t have a stay-at-home caregiver, we need the safety net of high quality, affordable childcare, paid family and medical leave, and paid sick days. With the rise of working women and female breadwinners, equal pay and reproductive health access are critical to the economic security of families across the nation. But the conventions provided a stark contrast.
High Quality Affordable Child Care
In her speech to DNC attendees in Philadelphia, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) discussed the need for high-quality affordable childcare. And what was Donald Trump’s response when Make It Work asked what he would do about child care access? “It’s a big subject, darling.”
In Ivanka Trump’s speech at the RNC, she claimed that her father would “focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all,” but as ThinkProgress editor Judd Legum pointed out, Trump’s campaign has shown no interest in crafting a policy that would actually do this.
The only hint of what a Trump solution would look like came last November, when he argued that private companies could simply add “some swings and some toys” and provide child care on-site. For the millions of families struggling to find high-quality, affordable care for their children, the voluntary provision of on-site child care by employers in lieu of any national policy is basically meaningless.
As child care costs continue to rise, and center based care for an infant and a four-year-old costs more than rent in every state; families need a plan that doesn’t depend on a getting a job with the few private employers who provide on-site care.
Trump’s vice presidential pick Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has also argued that “day-care kids get the short end of the emotional stick” when they have working mothers, a statement completely out of touch with what working families, and the workforce overall, look like today.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton lists high-quality, affordable childcare and as a top priority with detailed policy plans.
Paid Family Leave and Paid Sick Days
While Trump makes his position on personal caregiving known, saying, “I won’t do anything to take care of them,” American parents today share breadwinning and caregiving responsibilities, and know they’ll need time off to welcome a new child, recover from illnesses, and take care of each other. But as the only advanced economy without any guaranteed paid time off, national policy is wildly out of touch with the modem workplace.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) told Democrats in Philadelphia that “when a parent doesn’t have to choose between being there for a sick child and paying rent, or when a single mom earns an equal wage for equal work, it empowers the most important building block in all of our nation, and that is the family.”
Paid family leave is critical to the economic security of working families, and when families are able to recover together, our communities and national economy are healthier too. Booker’s comments were echoed by a variety of speakers at the DNC, including Hillary Clinton, and well-represented in the Democratic Party Platform.
Paid sick days, which allow workers to take time off to recover from an illness or go to a doctor, were also featured on the Democratic Party Platform and on the main stage. As Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy explained at the DNC, “Not only are workers protecting their health — but also they’re protecting the health of the people they serve.”
When workers have paid sick days, they are able to access preventative care, and less likely to go to work sick. And as Booker said, ensuring the health and wellbeing of working families means healthier communities and a stronger economy.
Despite the proven merits of both paid sick days and paid family and medical leave, mentions of either policy were absent from the Republican Party Platform. In the past, Trump brushed off questions about paid leave with comments about keeping “our county very competitive,” perhaps unaware that the United States is the only nation in the world other than Papua New Guinea without any paid maternity leave. And Mike Pence voted against mandating even just four weeks of paid parental leave for government workers in Congress, and signed a pre-emption bill to blocked local governments from passing paid sick days legislation.
In her speech at the DNC, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) focused on economic inequality and the way the playing field is so often rigged against working families. One prime example is the gender wage gap — also mentioned by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Vice Presidential Nominee Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), and many others.
The gender wage gap persists for working women across a wide range of occupations, and is especially disproportionate for black women and Latinas. As Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton said “if you believe that your working mother, wife, sister, or daughter deserves equal pay… join us!”
At the RNC, Ivanka Trump received attention for her surprising statements in favor of equal pay and child care access, but what Trump Campaign Manager Paul Manafort said is more in line with the campaign’s antiquated view of working women. Manafort argued that women will vote for Trump because they are worried about their husbands being able to pay the bills — just a few hours before Ivanka Trump pointed out that 40 percent of American households have female breadwinners. And per CAP analysis, the number of women who are breadwinners or co-breadwinners is even higher, at 64 percent, and even higher for black families. But neither Trump or the Republican Platform have a plan for equal pay.
In the past, when asked about equal pay by a young voter at a campaign event, Trump dismissed her question, replying that women will make the same if they “do as good a job” as men — ignoring research that soundly dispels the myth that the wage gap is due to a lack of skills. While Trump lacks any legislative or governing record, his running mate is a strident opponent of equal pay legislation: Pence voted against both the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act in Congress.
Women deserve a president who recognizes the ways the workplace has changed, and is committed to updating basic standards accordingly, and Trump isn’t it.
Reproductive Health Access
At the DNC, Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood and Planned Parenthood Action Fund gave an impassioned endorsement of Hillary Clinton: “she will always stand up for Roe v. Wade and the right of every woman to access a full range of reproductive health care, including abortion, no matter her economic status.” Richards also highlighted Clinton’s long history as a “champion for women and girls around the globe” and Democratic running mate Sen. Tim Kaine’s record of being a “champion for women and families his entire career.” Richards stressed the danger of Trump and Pence’s statements in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood, and reminded the convention of Trump’s statement (since recanted) that women who access abortion care should face some form of punishment. Sen. Warren also spoke about reproductive health: “We believe — and I can’t believe I have to say this in 2016 — in equal pay for equal work and a woman’s right to control over her own body! Hillary will fight for women. And we’re with her!”
As noted by Slate, the RNC was fairly quiet on reproductive health, other than RNC chair Reince Priebus stating “He’s going to protect the lives of the unborn” about Trump and a fleeting mention of “the sanctity of life” by Pence. However, the Republican party platform was very vehement and inaccurate, mentioning Planned Parenthood by name, reiterating the thoroughly debunked myth about the sale of fetal tissue, and advocating for medically unnecessary ultrasounds, waiting periods, and clinic regulations.
While Trump’s positions are often capricious and muddled, Pence brings an astonishingly anti-choice record to the ticket. In addition to leading the fight to defund Planned Parenthood in Congress, he attempted to erode the definition of rape, and opposed expanding health care to low-income children.
Throughout the primary season, we saw very different attitudes about women’s political leadership, and the contrast was especially striking between the two conventions. As noted by Fusion, the opening nights of each convention showcased very distinct versions of America. According to their analysis, the first night of the RNC featured only seven women speakers, compared to the 30 women who spoke on the first night of the DNC, including 18 women of color, and at least two LGBT women. In just one night of the DNC, 18 black speakers took to the podium; the same number of total black delegates at the RNC.
The DNC marked an unprecedented step in women’s political leadership with a woman accepting a major party nomination for the first time, but much work remains to achieve political parity and equal opportunity for working women. As demonstrated by the two major party nominees and the conventions, there are vast differences in how the Republicans and Democrats address the issues that matter most to working families, and how they envision progress for the United States.