De Blasio NYC win has national implications

In the Public Policy poll (PPP) of 500 Democratic primary voters, a majority (55 percent) said the fact that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn delayed action on paid sick days for three years made them less likely to vote for her.  These results should make politicians across the country take notice, and here’s why.

De Blasio’s win has national implications.  It has raised the profile of a public debate that should dominate election cycles for some time: the pent up need for new employment rules that will span the gap between what women in the workforce need and the out-of-date policies of America’s workplaces.

Today close to two-thirds (65 percent) of mothers work outside the home, the majority of families with children have two parents who work (60 percent), and one in three working women provide care for aging parents. But most employers and policy makers have been slow to recognize and act on this new reality.  Despite efforts to update and enact workplace reforms that would increase the economic security of women and their families and strengthen the economy overall -- corporate America has successfully stalled them.  Until now.

Public support for workplace reforms that help women and their families has never been greater. According to the post New York primary poll, an overwhelming majority of voters (73 percent) said they were more likely to pull the lever for a candidate who supports policies like paid sick days that help working families make ends meet, rather than vote for a candidate who supports policies that helps business grow by keeping costs low even if it means opposing paid sick days.  The public and elected officials are starting to reject the false choice between what’s good for business and what’s good for workers -- recognizing that the best way to create jobs and turn the economy around is to ensure women and their families have a reliable income and enough money to spend on the basics.

The Rhode Island legislature just passed a paid medical and family leave bill and the city councils in Portland, Oregon and New York City enacted paid sick leave legislation this year.  Fights to increase the minimum wage, expand living wage and pass paid sick days are being waged in states all across the country and early indications are that many 2014 ballots will provide voters the opportunity to act on these workplace reforms.  In Congress, where federal efforts to move an agenda that boosts women’s economic security have been blocked by big business for more than a decade, there is new energy and focus on promoting these solutions.  In an effort to set the terms of the 2014 debate, House Minority  Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has unveiled a new agenda that prioritizes helping women in the workforce.  In the Senate, New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand (D) is scheduled to unveil a similar set of initiatives at the end of September.

This is momentum politicians ignore at their own peril –especially when women voters and particularly unmarried women voters now make up such a large share of the electorate. Politicians who are tone deaf to the needs of working women and refuse to recognize the importance of changing workplace rules risk being swept away by the force of voters who – as we saw in New York City – clearly come down on the side of what’s best for families. 

Guide is associate director at the Rockefeller Family Fund.

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