By Erin Weber, Strategy & Policy Manager for State Advocacy
Last year was, well, a lot. On top of fears for bodily autonomy and an equitable economic recovery for women, the midterm elections felt like a circus at best and an existential threat to our democracy at worst. We pushed ourselves to the polls—while wondering if our vote would even count, let alone actually make a difference.
I’m here to promise you that it did. You might not see these gender justice victories splashed across national news headlines, but 2023 is ushering in so much positive change!
- Higher minimum wage for millions of workers
Before the 2022 election, some workers in D.C. were paid $5.35 an hour. That unlivable wage was unacceptable—and your vote put a stop to it. Beginning January 1, 23 states and D.C. raised their minimum wages–bringing an estimated 8.4 million workers bigger paychecks in the new year. And since women are overrepresented in low-wage work, this is a huge gender justice win, too!
- New equal pay protections in three states
Speaking of fair pay, the gender wage gap (yep…that’s still around) costs women a staggering $9,954 per year. That sum could have paid for two months of groceries, three months of child care, three months of rent, and so much more.
Pay transparency could be one of the solutions, and as of January 1, employers in California and Washington state with 15 or more employees are required to include salary ranges in job postings. Similarly, Rhode Island-based businesses must provide pay ranges to job applicants requesting the data.
- Workplace justice for pregnant people
I don’t have kids, but I’ve seen firsthand my family and friends struggle with the physical toll pregnancy can take. I’ve heard tales of debilitating migraines, the development of new chronic health issues like hypertension and diabetes, and uncontrollable nausea. The thought of requiring a person experiencing that much pain to work the same as before their pregnancy seems laughable, if not downright cruel.
No one should have to choose between a paycheck and a healthy pregnancy. Now, fewer pregnant workers will have to. In the final week of 2022 (and after 10 long years of advocacy), Congress passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, protecting pregnant workers’ right to reasonable accommodations.
- Paid leave for parents in Oregon
Pregnant workers may have more protections, but new parents still lack paid leave benefits in 37 states. Paid leave affects more than new parents, though—caregivers of sick or elderly family members and workers seeking care for health conditions need the ability to take time off without risking their jobs or paychecks. The good news is that people in Oregon will soon have access to paid leave! Beginning in September 2023, Oregon will provide a percentage of workers’ wages for up to 12 weeks for family or medical leave.
Another cool thing I’d like to see more states do? Oregon’s paid leave policy also covers “safe leave” for survivors of sexual assaults, domestic violence, harassment, or stalking—directly helping victims across the state.
- Expanding abortion access
I’m going to be real with you, 2022 broke my heart. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the reproductive rights enshrined by Roe v. Wade saddened, angered, and rocked me.
We needed some good news for abortion in 2023, and California and South Carolina have delivered.
In the first days of the new year, South Carolina struck down the state’s six-week abortion ban, while in California, SB 1375 took effect. This law allows trained nurse practitioners, midwives, and physician assistants to perform abortions without doctor supervision. As abortion access becomes increasingly restricted across the country, expanding access in states that protect care is invaluable.
To top it off, voters in three states chose to enshrine reproductive freedom in their constitutions through ballot propositions in the 2022 midterm elections. This year is the first for constitutional protection of abortion in California, Michigan, and Vermont. Voters in these states, take a bow!
- Women leaders
In the toughest times of 2022, I found myself reminiscing about the historic 2018 election that ushered a record number of women into office. I hoped increased representation would guarantee our ability to rebuild a better system. Ah, if only it were that simple.
Though it wasn’t a silver bullet, the women elected in 2018 have continued to work for women and families, and now many of them are moving into leadership positions in Congress. Will that mean immediate national policies for minimum wage, equal pay, paid leave, abortion, and child care? Probably not. Because, sexism, racism, and classism. But having more women, LGBTQI+ people, and people of color in leadership positions is a helpful step in the right direction.
We have a lot to fight for this year, but 2023 so far feels like we’re making progress. Now…back to work.