Families are the foundation of America. They celebrate with us in times of joy and support us in times of need. When we bring new lives into the world or need to care for seriously ill loved ones, every American should be able to take the time they need to support their families. Yet America falls far behind the rest of the developed world in fulfilling this promise — only 19 percent of civilian workers have access to paid family leave.
Further, the lack of paid family leave perpetuates gender inequity in the workplace and disproportionately slows the progression of women’s careers. It’s one of the reasons that women in California continue to be paid 89 cents for every dollar paid to men, and women nationally receive a 4 percent pay cut for each child they have. It’s wrong and it must change.
As a State Senator, I made paid leave and equal pay a priority for California. I worked to pass the California Fair Pay Act, which eliminated loopholes perpetuating pay gaps and launched a nationwide movement to strengthen equal pay laws in 41 states. We expanded job protection for maternity and paternity leave, because no one should have to choose between keeping their jobs and caring for a newborn. I introduced a bill to further strengthen California’s family leave laws that recognizes our diverse, intergenerational family structures. I also led the charge to require equitable and diverse gender representation on corporate boards. While these changes have helped accelerate progress in California, there is much more work to be done.
Low-income workers still face an impossible choice between their families and their own economic security. The gender wage gap has persisted for an entire century and our government has failed to act for far too long. We need a president who will relentlessly fight to make America a nation where every individual has the right to take paid family leave and be paid fairly.
As I’ve reviewed the various plans the presidential candidates have advanced for women and families, I’ve been especially impressed by the agenda of Senator Kamala Harris. Her Children’s Agenda would make America a true leader, honoring the dignity of families in the international community. By guaranteeing six months of paid family leave for all working people and providing universal access to high-quality preschool, her plan eases the burden on working families and gives them the security they need to thrive.
She’s also put forth the most aggressive equal pay proposal of any candidate. She understands that unequal pay is not just a gender issue – it’s a racial justice issue that disproportionately affects Latina (43 cents on the dollar), Native American (33 cents on the dollar), and Black women (63 cents on the dollar). That’s why she goes further than any other candidate in proposing a financial penalty for companies that allow wage gaps to persist.
President Trump has repeatedly tried to turn back the clock on progress. His Administration has thwarted efforts to hold corporations responsible for race and gender disparities. Worse, his plans fail to address the real issues facing American families. America cannot afford to wait four more years to have a president that makes solving this crisis a national priority.
As Kamala has said, justice is on the ballot in this election. In the 21st century, Americans should not have to sacrifice their livelihoods to care for their families. For years, I’ve watched her on the frontlines as she’s fiercely advocated for progress on behalf of our women, children, and families. Kamala embodies the courageous leadership America needs, and she is the best candidate to deliver justice in 2020.
Hannah-Beth Jackson is the State Senator for the Santa Barbara area and chair of the California Judiciary Committee.