Do working women need a federal agency to deal with their concerns as wage earners?

According to the Bush administration, the answer is no as plans were announced to close all regional offices of the Women’s Bureau. But according to studies done by the AFL-CIO, women today still face discrimination on the job, and formidable challenges combining their work and family obligations.

One-third of working women say they do not get equal pay; more than one out of four works nights or weekends as part of their regularly scheduled work week; one-third do not get sick leave even for themselves; one-quarter say they have been sexually harassed on the job; the vast majority have no child care or elder care benefits; and fewer women every year are covered by health insurance or pensions.

The Women’s Bureau, created in 1920, is the only agency in the federal government devoted to working women’s concerns. The regional offices provide education, training, collaboration and feedback to the Bureau.

The Women’s Bureau has played an essential role in the establishment and implementation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the recruitment and training of women into non-traditional jobs.

The Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) has called for immediate action to oppose this closure. Its alert pointed out that the Bush administration decision to cut back the Women’s Bureau follows a recommendation of the Heritage Foundation, a pro-corporate, right-wing think tank. CLUW urges supporters to send protests to Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao at (202) 224-3121 or www.dol.gov.

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