One of the perks of heading WDC is the compliments that come my way. (Sure, the complaints end up in my inbox as well, but let’s focus on the positive.) It does my heart good when people tell me how impressed they are with WDC’s impact. And they do – I hear wonderful things from elective officials and their staffs, from partner organizations, and from members old and new. Without our members, we have no impact, so thank you, one and all.
Right now, in the midst of the 2019 state legislative session, I’ve been hearing good things a lot. For example, I’ve heard wonderful reports from WDC members and from legislators about our February 27 Advocacy Day, when WDC members traveled to Annapolis to learn about our state government, meet with our legislators, and advance WDC’s legislative agenda.
Advocacy Day is a massive undertaking. On behalf of the WDC Board, huge thanks to Advocacy Committee Chair Ginger Macomber and Advocacy Day Coordinator Leslie Milano for all their work in organizing such an informative and high-impact day for our members. Thanks also to our Issues Captains and their committee members for identifying and advocating for important bills that, if passed, will improve the lives of Maryland women and families: Karissa Miller (Affordable Housing), JoAnne Koravos (Aging), Gael Cheek (Children and Youth), Beth Tomasello (Criminal Justice and Public Safety), Sharon Cranford and Fran Kelleher (Health), and Leslie Milano (Working Families).
WDC began our advocacy work several years ago, under the leadership of WDC President Beth Tomasello and Advocacy Committee Chair Emily Shetty (who is now D 18 Delegate Emily Shetty). And how far we’ve come! What a tribute to WDC when a legislator requests our support on a bill! What a tribute to Advocacy Chair Ginger Macomber and her committee when they manage to analyze, submit testimony, and rally support on nearly two dozen bills! And what a tribute to our Advocacy Alerts team when some of those bills actually pass!
The tributes are nice, but that’s not why we do this work. We Democrats are committed to making our world a better place, for everyone. Let me give you an example.
Over the past few years, WDC joined the Fight for Fifteen coalition to encourage our County Council to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Last year, they did exactly that, easing the burden of poverty for many of our neighbors. Now, we are engaged in the same struggle at the state level.
Why do WDC advocates work so hard to increase the minimum wage? It may or may not put more money in our own pockets. We do this work to improve the lives of women and families living on the edge. We know the difference even a small increase in the family budget can make for women and their children.
Lately, researchers have documented that workers who earn a little more money have fewer unmet medical needs; they are more likely to quit smoking, give birth to higher birth-weight babies, and raise healthier children. Those children are less likely to have children as teenagers, and they are less likely to be subjected to neglect or abuse. Why? According to the New York Times: “Poverty can be unrelenting, shame-inducing and exhausting.”
Until now, minimum wage debates have generally focused on how an increase would affect the labor market. Now, finally, policymakers are coming face-to-face with the public health benefits of a minimum wage increase. In case you missed it, check out this recent article.
Our March 6 Community Education forum on health disparities and other inequities among Montgomery County women related directly to our advocacy work. Presenters Travis Gayles, M.D., County Health Officer and Chief of Public Health Services, and Diana Rubin, 2nd Vice President, Montgomery County Commission for Women, illuminated the disgraceful ways the effects of poverty and racial discrimination impact health and other indicators of well-being. That new knowledge will bolster our future advocacy efforts. If you missed that excellent program, organized by the co-chairs Diana Conway and Brenda Wolff and their Community Education Committee, be sure to read about it elsewhere in this newsletter.
This work won’t stop after sine die, when the 2019 legislative session ends. WDC will be supporting a pay equity bill that Councilmember-at-Large (and WDC member) Evan Glass has introduced (and that the County Executive and all the other councilmembers support). Mr. Glass was astonished to learn that his new hires were required to provide their salary histories – a practice that perpetuates women earning less than men who do the same work. WDC is supporting a state pay equity bill in Annapolis. Read about Mr. Glass’s bill here.
Our advocacy work connects us to Democrats throughout history. As we work to create a better world, we will all be able to say, as did Geraldine Ferraro decades ago: “We fought hard. We gave it our best. We did what was right. And we made a difference.”