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.

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.

In the U.S., women have historically had less access to cars, but their traditional, gendered family roles have increased their share of household-related trips—think daycare pickup, grocery shopping, and the like. The mismatch between women’s mobility constraints and burdens has, in turn, created significant restrictions in women’s labor market choices. As a result, employed women’s work commute trips were, for decades, shorter in both distance and time than those of employed men.