Amanda Collins on Workplace EquityÂ
What cause are you representing and why is it important to highlight?
I’m speaking up for working women. While we’ve made a lot of progress over the years- from outlawing sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination to passing the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act– millions of working women are still struggling in low-paying, low-opportunity jobs without benefits or the chance to get ahead. We can’t just break the ceiling; we still need to raise the floor. Right now, 80 percent of minimum-wage workers are adults, and two-thirds of them are women. I believe that all working women deserve fair pay, respectful working conditions, and opportunities to advance–as well as access to higher education and training programs that make it possible to increase their skills and find better jobs. Women EmployedÂ has been opening doors, breaking down barriers, and creating fairer workplaces for women for more than 40 years.
What new or innovative developments are taking place to either increase awareness or to address the issue itself?
Right now, there’s a lot of momentum behind some issues that are incredibly important for working women, especially on the local level. WE is leading the fight to pass a paid sick time ordinance in Chicago that would make sure no employee has to choose between their health and a paycheck. We’re also fighting for fairer scheduling practices, because, increasingly, businesses are choosing to give hourly workers unstable and unpredictable schedules that wreak havoc on their lives.
On the education and training side of things, we’re partnering with City Colleges of Chicago to help low-skilled students make the transition from adult education programs to higher education. We helped create a course that helps students who read at a 4th grade level or above, or who speak limited English, assess their skills and interests, explore career paths, and craft a plan to get them to college. We’re also continuing our fight to protect and expand financial aid, especially during this budget impasse, during which we’re making sure that policymakers hear how the Monetary Award Program has helped low-income students.
How can YNPN members and supporters help or get more involved?
Everyone can do something! The easiest step is signing up for our Action Network, which makes activism on these issues easy for busy people, and for our monthly e-newsletter, which helps you stay informed on the issues. We’d also love to see you at our Advocacy Council meetings. Organizing the council of young professionals, which meets each month, is one of my favorite parts of this job. And of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that you can donate to WE!
Is there anything else youâ€™d like us to know about your cause?
Some of the women at WE have been fighting for women’s rights since the 70s, and I’m honored to work alongside them and learn from them. We’re in this for the long haul; we aren’t stopping until women really can achieve their aspirations and support themselves and their families.
If you have questions or want to hear more about the Advocacy Council, feel free to email me.
Amanda Joy Collins is a Program Coordinator with Women Employed.