Hillary Clinton says women in minimum wage jobs are ‘at the mercy of employers ‘

The putative Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Thursday seized on new research that shows women are significantly more likely to live in poverty than men, warning that women earning the minimum wage or reliant on tips were “really on the brink”.

“We talk about a glass ceiling – these women don’t even have a secure floor under them,” she said.

The former secretary of state, who is considering a second bid for the White House in 2016, said opposition on Capitol Hill to Democratic legislation to close the gender gap was detached from the lives of women across the country. Democrats have recently introduced legislation to encourage equal pay and increase the minimum wage, both of which have been blocked by Republicans.

“The Congress, increasingly, despite the best efforts of my friends and others, is living in an evidence-free zone,” Clinton said.

Women fill two-thirds of minimum wage jobs, Clinton said, and hold three-quarters of jobs which are reliant upon tips, often leaving them “at the mercy of employers”. She argued that lax employment regulation combined with lack of support for working families was putting women on low incomes at risk.

“Without equal pay, without flexibility or predictability at work, without access to quality, affordable childcare, without [the] ability to take a day off if your child or ageing parent is sick, without paid family or medical leave, this woman is really on the brink.”

The research quoted by Clinton was released by the Census Bureau earlier this week. Clinton also cited a Bloomberg report into the research which said that 5.1 million more women were in poverty than men. In 2003, the difference was 4.3 million.

The same census data said that women’s relative earnings compared to men had increased by just one cent since 2012. They now earn 78 cents for every dollar made by a man.

“We know that more women are likely to be impoverished, even if they’re working,” Clinton said.

The former New York senator and first lady was speaking in Washington at a small roundtable event on women’s economic security, which focused on policies, such as equal pay and paid leave, that support working mothers.

She appeared alongside three of the other most senior women in Democratic politics: the minority leader of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, Washington state’s first female senator, Patty Murray, and Kirsten Gillibrand, who succeeded Clinton as New York’s junior senator. The panelists, who have dedicated their political lives to closing the economic gap between men and women, were in agreement.

Gillibrand gave some of the more impassioned remarks, saying that workplace policies “are stuck in the Mad Men era”. She was particularly critical of the lack of paid leave regulations in the US.

“We are the only industrialised country in the world that doesn’t have paid leave,” she said. “Pakistan and Afghanistan, [which] don’t even educate their girls, have more paid leave than America. That is outrageous.”

Unusually for a Washington thinktank panel, a type of event which usually only involves the capital’s power establishment, Thursday’s forum also included two single mothers, Rhiannon Broschat and Shawnta Jones, who are also students and holding down jobs.

Broschat was sacked by Whole Foods when she was forced to miss a shift because extreme weather in her home city, Chicago, closed her son’s school. In contrast Jones, who had her first child at 17, received childcare subsidies and was able to enrol her three children in preschool education.

“All of them are great kids, very smart,” she said. “They went to school and they aced almost everything. For working families these resources for assistance are very important.”

The event took place at the Center for American Progress, a liberal thinktank founded by John Podesta, a chief of staff to Bill Clinton who recently returned to the White House to serve as counsellor to Barack Obama.

Podesta is tipped as a likely chair of any Clinton presidential campaign in 2016. The think tank’s president, Neera Tanden, who chaired the roundtable, was Clinton’s policy director during her 2008 campaign for the Democratic nomination, in which she was defeated by Obama.
Clinton has said she will not make a decision about another run for the White House until the new year, but speculation about her intentions intensified at the weekend when she visited Iowa, which holds the first caucus in the nomination process.

The presumed presidential candidate made no mention of 2016. But she did speak about the urgent need to address economic equality, especially for women, which have risen to prominence in midterm congressional races across the country.

“These issues have to be in the lifeblood of this election and any election,” she said. “We need to make people feel like they are part of a movement. That this is not just part of an election – it is part of a movement.”



September 2014
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