By Mary E. O'Leary
Ivy Delgado, a bus driver for ten years, knows firsthand the difficulties parents face when the choice is missing a day's pay to stay home with a sick child, or sending them to school.
Delgado said there are many times a student will become stomach sick on her bus, which likely meant they were also sick at home.
In her own personal experience, if there was a problem with her youngest child, who is autistic, it meant either she or her husband would see less money at the end of the week as they traded off on who would stay home to attend to his needs.
That has all changed now, with the paid sick leave bill that Connecticut has adopted -- the first in the country.
"Everyone needs this. For me, this is a big victory," she told more than 200 women who had come together Friday on the factory floor of the Pennsylvania Globe Gaslight Co. to discuss the need for equal pay for women and quality, affordable child care.
"You need to be able to go to work and know that if you get an emergency call and you have to leave, you can and you don't have to worry about missing that pay or not paying that bill," Delgado said.
The woman-owned small business, which supports 15 employees, was chosen as the site for the presentation by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, and Democratic U.S. House Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as they campaign on their economic agenda for women. A family business that manufactures street lights, it is run by sisters Michelle Stonier and Marcia Lafemina.
DeLauro said almost half of the men and women in the work force have no paid sick days, while the cost of child care sometimes exceeds the monthly mortgage bill. She said a proposal by President Barack Obama for quality preschool programs for all low- and moderate-income families would be a step forward, as is the expansion of child care tax credits.
"Women are really struggling financially. They are looking for an increase in the minimum wage, equal pay, educational opportunities to raise their families and to have a better qualify of life," DeLauro said.
DeLauro said stories like Delgado's shows the importance of legislation. "It makes a difference in people's lives and that's what the job is all about," she said.
Debra Bonney told the audience that she lost her job, but was able to get back in the work force based on training from the Workforce Alliance and even to negotiate better pay when an outside company tried to lure her away.
Pelosi, the mother of five children, born in six years, she said she began her political career when her youngest was a senior in high school.
She said she was in awe of the young women in Congress who are juggling child care with careers. She said she tells her colleagues on the other side of the aisle, "you could not possibly do yourself what you are asking these young working women to do."
Pelosi said there is no better investment by the government than in education, from early childhood to making college affordable. "That is how you reduce the deficit. Not by cutting food stamps. ... It is all connected. When women succeed, America succeeds," she said.
Pelosi said almost every week there are initiatives to undo protections of the water supply and protections against foodborne illnesses where 3,000 American die every year.
The former speaker of the House said she is optimistic that their initiatives on child care and pay equity will be successful if the American voters speak up. "It's about a better quality of life," DeLauro said.
They were asked how they can accomplish this unless the House majority changes from Republican control.
"Understand this: There is out there a groundswell of impatience, urgency to get this done, and that's why this is a very focused, women-in-the-workplace agenda," Pelosi said.
DeLauro said there were many who did not think Congress would pass the Violence Against Women Act, but it did pass because there were a lot of voters across the country who made their voices heard. "These are not partisan issues," she said.
"We made the issue (Violence Against Women Act) too hot for the Republicans to handle," Pelosi said. It was held up for 600 days after it expired before it re-authorized.
On the need for background checks for firearms purchases, Pelosi said, "We will never give up,"
Pelosi was asked if Anthony Weiner, a former New York congressman and now one of the Democratic candidates for mayor, should get off the public stage given his habit of sexting.
"The statement that I've made ... doesn't just apply to Anthony Weiner. It applies to other examples that are well known in the country. This is disrespectful to women. Apparently these folks are clueless. ... I've said if you are clueless, get a clue. If you need therapy, do it in private," Pelosi said.