On the 25th anniversary of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, Gender Policy Report Labor & Family contributor Debra Fitzpatrick connected with Jackie James, co-director of the Center on Aging & Work at Boston College, and Jennifer Greenfield, assistant professor at the University of Denver/ Graduate School of Social Work, to discuss the law and proposed policy innovations. They recently co-authored an OpEd and spearheaded an effort to engage 113 researchers on aging, work and family issues to advance specific policy solutions.

Broadly, the tax bill before Congress (in both its House and Senate versions) proposes to cut the standard corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent, reduce personal income tax rates, reduce a range of tax preferences, including the deductibility of state and local income taxes, and increase the child tax credit and the standard deduction. The “sunsetting provisions” of many of the changes in the personal income tax suggest that the most important long-run effect would be the reduction in the corporate tax rate, and experts agree that the bill will bring disproportionate benefits to the wealthiest of the wealthiest Americans. It’s difficult, though, to see how the tax bill will perform in terms of gender equity. All we can say for sure is that it represents a missed opportunity to move toward a more gender-neutral individual tax system or to use the personal income tax to better support working women.

On October 5, 2017, the New York Times revealed that Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein, paid eight settlements in response to allegations of sexual harassment, dating back to 1990. The article detailed a behavioral pattern in which Weinstein lured women into meeting with him on the pretense of work and then appeared in various states of undress, demanded a massage, touched women without consent, or asked them to watch him shower. Weinstein’s conduct was condemned, but contextual questions soon emerged: who helped him create opportunities to harass and assault women, and who refused to see the harassment and hear victims’ complaints? Many people privately knew about Weinstein’s behavior. His sexual violence did not become public, however, due to the use of nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) in settlements with victims. Purportedly part of the solution to harassment (i.e., legal settlement), NDAs can facilitate harassment by keeping sexual violence secret and victims silent.

The Democratic Party released its Better Deal platform in June that included a call for a higher minimum wage, better jobs, and worker training.  Conspicuously absent, however, was any mention of unions. This was quite a stunning departure from the original New Deal that had unions and labor organizing at its very core. Last week the Democrats finally released a new plank that focuses on labor law reform, under the banner of “Give Workers the Freedom to Negotiate a Better Deal.”  While no one expects the proposals to pass anytime soon, their inclusion signals that the Democrats may wrap workers’ freedom to organize into the 2019 platform.  Will the Democrats stick with labor law reform this time around?  For women workers’ sake, let’s hope so.  After all, workers’ right to freely form unions and bargain collectively is a gender justice issue; unions help women close the wage gap, rise out of poverty, and address power issues on the job.