POTSDAM - On Jan. 9, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his 10-point Womens Equality Agenda to address the barriers women face in the workplace and in housing, to improve womens safety and well-being, and ensure equal treatment under the law.
The women of the state responded by creating the New York Womens Equality Coalition that formally launched less than two months later with over 500 labor groups, business leaders, civil rights organizations, womens groups, medical associations and religious groups.
These groups and the tens of thousands of people they represent recognize that women in New York earn 84 percent of what men earn, and that disparity is even more drastic for African American and Hispanic women. And they recognize that women who are pregnant or have children are less likely to be hired, promoted, or given raises.
They know first-hand that inequality persists throughout the course of a womans life, meaning a woman is twice as likely as a man to live out old age in poverty. And that 88 percent of public assistance cases for families are filed by women, and 71 percent of public housing units are occupied by female-headed households.
Among the organizations supporting the agenda and are members of the coalition are several north country groups. AAUW-St. Lawrence County and the St. Lawrence County unit of the League of Women Voters joined the Planned Parenthood of the North Country New York to sign on early in the process.
As early members, these groups will help to lead the North Country Region of the WEA Coalition which is now forming. The function of these regions will include education and advocacy for the legislation that will address the 10 points.
On the education side, St. Lawrence County jumped out early with two local videos as part of the spring North Country Matters series. Assemblywoman Addie Russell of 116th River District and the chair of the Assemblys Task Force on Womens Issues, spoke about the issues in the Womens Equality Agenda.
Russell discussed pay equity, anti-discrimination legislation, womens health, human trafficking and strengthening domestic violence laws. In addition, she talked about raising the minimum wage and the need for fair pay laws.
Newly released information shows that the number of workers in New York making the minimum wage jumped 25 percent from 2011 to 2012hitting the highest point in at least a decade. May of these low-wage workers are women with families
A second NCM video looks specifically at the issue of human trafficking, which is wide-spread and world-wide. It takes the form of sex trafficking, child trafficking, child soldiers, debt bondage, domestic bondage, trafficking in the fishing industry.
The United States is the second highest destination in the world for trafficked women from abroad; an estimated 4,000 American-born women in New York state alone are victims of sex trafficking.
The panelists, Dr. David Bugg, SUNY Potsdam, and Sabel Bong, SUNY Canton, discuss human trafficking and some of the legislative needs to address the holes in current state law. The law needs to remove the requirement that coercion be proven when victims are minors, increase penalties for trafficking and create an affirmative defense in prostitution prosecutions that the defendants participation was a result of having been a sex trafficking victim.
In addition to broadcast on WCKN, cable channel 30, the shows are available on YouTube at www.youtube.com/user/danieledullea. Check the websites for AAUW-St. Lawrence County (www.northnet.org/stlawrenceaauw/index.html) and the League of Women Voters of St. Lawrence County (http://slc-leaguewv.org/) for specific program links.