The issues that affect women's lives are of great concern to me. I firmly believe in equal rights for all, and because of this I am a co-sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment that would be added to the Constitution and state that men and women are equal and have equal protection under the law.
Women and Employment
The movement of women in the job market has created a number of questions regarding fairness in employment. To respond to these concerns, the federal government created a regulatory agency to respond to the issues facing minorities. As of 1972, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has worked to promote equality in the work sector. The local EEOC office can provide assistance in the case of gender discrimination in the workplace.
It has been illegal since the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to discriminate against a person based on their race, sex, or national origin. Pay equity is of concern to me as a member of the Education and Workforce Committee. I have consistently supported legislation that works to ensure protection from discrimination based upon race, sex, or national origin. If you are concerned you have been the victim of discrimination, you can take action at the state or federal level. On the state level the Equal Rights Division handles concerns: How to File a Wisconsin Civil Rights Complaint. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is also another helpful resource.
Family Medical Leave
As a father and a child advocate, support for families is of concern to me. I have cosponsored legislation to strengthen the positive effect of Family Medical Leave on the growth and coping abilities of American families. H.R. 1381 is a bill that expands family medical leave benefits to living organ donors. This resource allows family members to take time off when there is a birth or serious illness. I believe that family medical leave is invaluable as it allows the family time together to adjust to and cope with new events.
Federal law provides for 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each year during which health benefits are protected. This law works to protect the interests of employers while promoting equal employment.
Sexual Harassment must be of great concern to both the legislative and judicial systems. The judicial system first became involved with the issue of sexual harassment through litigation in the 1986 case US vs. Morrison. This case sparked the definition of sexual harassment and the classification of it as an illegal offense based in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In 1994, Congress passed Civil Rights legislation regarding violent crime motivated by gender that includes sexual harassment. The court continues to be involved with legislation through recent cases such as US v. Morrison and Clinton v. Jones. As a former prosecutor, I am strongly committed to strengthening laws that protect the rights and well being of workers while preventing the exploitation of the American workforce.
Unfortunately, within the current job market, there exists an informal divide between jobs women hold and jobs men hold. Women often work in the service sector, and these professions typically pay less. However, legislation was passed in 1992 to encourage and facilitate women's ability to seek a nontraditional profession. The Women in Apprenticeships and Nontraditional Occupations Act provides assistance to employers and labor unions through financial grants that have increased the number of women in these professions by over 5,000. While no grants have been awarded in Wisconsin, I hope that this advantageous program will be utilized in our area.
Concerns Regarding Children
As a father, I understand the need to have reliable, quality childcare. The federal government has an interest in protecting families and investing in children. I have supported measures that provide childcare through the Welfare programs because I believe it is critical to provide safe, nurturing places for children. As more and more families see two parents working outside the home, it is critical to know that our children are in good hands.
The state of Wisconsin does have childcare subsidies available to low-income families. Subsidies are only applicable to licensed or certified childcare providers. These subsidies are administered through the Wisconsin Works program at local W-2 offices.
Headstart is a preschool program created in 1965 for low-income children. Working with the families of enrolled children, Headstart aims to address the educational, emotional, physiological, health, social, and nutritional needs of preschool children. As a member of the Education and Workforce Committee, I know that an early education is developmentally important. In Wisconsin, local non-profit organizations, community action groups, or local grantees operate this program. Through Headstart, children have access to medical and dental care. Parents are actively engaged in Headstart and their children's education by serving as partners in the program. Headstart also links parents to needed social services. As a part of the recent reauthorization of the Headstart program, I signed a bi-partisan letter asking for increased funding of this valuable program. Unfortunately the legislation passed changes the funding mechanism. Money will now be awarded in block grants which will not ensure that the money will provided needed services to low income children.
I believe strongly that education is a key to the future. It is critical to have a well-educated, well-trained workforce. Education is important at all points in life, not just in youth. As a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee, I support all initiatives that enhance access to education. As a father, I understand the busy schedule that parents face. I have supported plans to strengthen programs that would fit into the life of a busy mother, such as Internet courses. Higher education should be accessible to all, and I believe that it is attainable for all especially in western Wisconsin where we have a variety of universities, colleges, and technical institutions available.
Domestic violence, commonly thought of as violence from a male directed at his female spouse or girlfriend, actually refers to any form of violence that occurs within the home. However, it is true that domestic violence affects more women and children than men.
As a former prosecutor, I have seen the devastating affects of domestic violence on women and their children. Domestic violence affects nearly one-third of American women at some point in their lives. I am dedicated to the task of creating legislation that strengthens laws to protect women and other victims of such abuse. Domestic violence is a tragic event in American society, and action must be taken to prevent our children from learning to deal with anger through abuse.
If you are in a situation where someone is abusing you and are in need of services please consider these resources:
The welfare system is an asset to our society through its intention to combat poverty. The goal of the welfare system is to provide an escape route from poverty. Poverty is a cycle that is detrimental to the lives of American children who begin life at a huge disadvantage. Congress must take a comprehensive approach to welfare, utilizing work-first principles and making work pay. As a former prosecutor, I feel that it is critical to help single parents as well as screen for sexual abuse and domestic violence. These issues must be addressed as they are often contributing factors to women and children living in poverty.
I have supported legislation that creates more options for education and work while compensating for needs such as child care and health care. While the system could be better, I feel that it is a testimony to the American people's sense of duty to the poor in our midst to have social policy with the goal of easing the struggles of American poverty.
In 1996, the New Democrat initiative of Welfare reform legislation created Temporary Aide to Needy Families that provided block grants to fund state welfare programs. The TANF block grants replaced the previous program, Aide to Families with Dependant Children, and JOBS programs. In Wisconsin, the welfare program is Wisconsin Works, or W-2. W-2 is a state-run program. This program is based on willingness to work and not entitlement. W-2 is available to residents of Wisconsin who are citizens or legal aliens. The W-2 financial eligibility requirements are less strict, with allowances for home and car equity.