by Emily J. Martin
Mother’s Day is quickly approaching — but for some moms, celebrating is the last thing on their minds.
Because Congress has failed to act, some pregnant women might be spending this holiday facing an impossible choice between risking their health and risking their family’s economic security.
No mom-to-be should be forced to choose between risking her health and risking her family’s economic security this Mother’s Day. Write to your Members of Congress now.
Lots of pregnant women don’t need any changes on the job, but some do, and for them the stakes are high. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is commonsense legislation that would require employers to make reasonable accommodations when workers have a medical need for them because of pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions — just as employers are already required to do for people with disabilities.
Over the next several weeks, we’re turning the pressure up to raise awareness and take action in support of pregnant workers. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will be re-introduced in Congress soon. But to give it a strong start, we need to make sure we have as many co-sponsors on the bill as possible.
It’s time we turn it up a notch and push for what moms really need. Please take a minute to honor the mothers in your life by supporting the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.
Thanks for all that you do.
Emily J. Martin
Vice President and General Counsel
National Women’s Law Center
Three Policies To Support Teachers For Teacher Appreciation Week
We all know teachers in our lives who helped us more than we could ever fully appreciate. Well, this week is Teacher Appreciation Week, the time for all of us to let our teachers know how much they are valued by their students and the communities they serve. For the occasion, the Center for American Progress released this video showing what happens when you ask principals and administrators to thank a teacher.
But we can do more than just say thank you. We also must pass public policies that support and empower teachers to do their jobs well. Here are three such suggestions:
1. Pay them more: The average starting salary for teachers across the country is $36,141, 40 percent lower than the average starting salary of workers with college degrees, which deters younger teachers from staying in the field. We should boost teacher pay so they earn what they deserve, and so that students can learn from the best teachers we have to offer.
2. Give them meaningful leadership opportunities: Teachers should always feel valued in the work they are doing, but we should strengthen that by creating more teacher leadership roles in classrooms, schools and districts. A collaborative approach between management and teachers is crucial, especially for development new teaching materials and implementing reforms such as the Common Core. And student learning will improve as a result.
3. Reauthorize a federal education bill that supports teachers instead of failing them: The federal government has an important role to play in education by insuring that our students and teachers get a proper level of support. However, early versions of the federal education reauthorization bill would have opened the door to severe budget cuts, diluted targeted funding for teachers and cut $163 million of federal spending on Title II, funding designed to support teachers. Policymakers need to make sure that isn’t the case.
BOTTOM LINE: Be sure to take a moment thank a teacher this week. But also remember that a great way to thank our teachers is to support them with policies that give them the tools to help every student succeed.
After years of pressure on Bank of America, they just announced a new coal mining policy: “Our new policy … reflects our decision to continue to reduce our credit exposure over time to the coal mining sector globally.”1
Translation: Bank of America is dumping coal mining!
This is a huge moment. Bank of America has gone from being the worst bankroller of coal to having the strongest global coal mining policy of any major global bank. It’s the result of years of hard-hitting campaigning by RAN, our many front-line allies — and by you and all of RAN’s supporters in this fight. So, thank you for everything you’ve done.
Now, we have to hold Bank of America to its word by rigorously monitoring their implementation of this policy. And second, we have to push other banks to meet or exceed Bank of America’s coal mining policy. There are just a few short years left to meet the challenge of climate change. We need to build on this victory to stop the coal industry using big banks as ATMs.
I’m writing to you from the Bank of America shareholder meeting in Charlotte, NC, where I came to hear today’s announcement in person. RAN has been at this meeting every year since 2011 to make the case that the bank should divest from coal mining. I’m thinking about the many allies whom we have stood here with throughout this campaign. Allies like Paul Corbit Brown, whose stunning photographs and eloquent advocacy have made it impossible for Bank of America to ignore the destruction that mountaintop removal coal mining has done to his home state of West Virginia. Allies like Pat Moore, who was so outraged by Bank of America funding the coal-fired power plants in her community, while her granddaughter suffered through asthma attacks, that she led a civil disobedience action here in Charlotte. I’m thrilled to share this moment with them.
When we started this campaign in 2011, most banks were basing their wafer-thin “climate commitments” around efficient lightbulbs in their branches and green-certified headquarters. Other banks felt that modest investments in renewable energy allowed them to ignore their huge investments in fossil fuels. After four years of hard work, Bank of America’s coal mining policy represents a sea change: it acknowledges that they’re responsible for the fossil fuels that they bankroll. This is a huge paradigm shift.
When we first approached Bank of America about instituting a responsible coal policy, they told us they were “diametrically opposed to our position on coal”. They said they aspired to be “number one in every sector” — including the fossil fuel sector. We took on Bank of America because they were the hardest target: they were the most resistant to stopping doing business as usual.
Today, with Bank of America’s new coal policy, we’ve reached a huge milestone. Now we have to make sure they’re as good as their word. Will you help us do that by chipping in today?
This new policy is the strongest to date of any global private-sector bank — but it can’t be the only one. Across the financial sector, we don’t need big banks to change the lightbulbs at their corporate headquarters, we need them to stop bankrolling fossil fuels that are killing the climate. Coal, oil and gas need to be left in the ground.
We’re going to push other banks to own up to the climate consequences of their financing decisions, and meet or exceed Bank of America’s policy. Time is running out to stop catastrophic climate change. We can’t meet the challenge of our era unless the big banks profiting from fossil fuels drop their support. Along with our allies — and supporters like you — we’ll build on today’s success to turn this into a truly sector-wide change.
But we can’t do it without you. Support that work today!
In gratitude, for our communities and the climate,
Climate and Energy Program Director
Rainforest Action Network
P.S. To celebrate the hard work of our allies and supporters in this fight, we’ve put together a timeline of key moments in the years-long campaign against Bank of America. Check it out!
1. “BREAKING: Bank of America dumps coal mining in sweeping new policy”, Rainforest Action Network, http://www.ran.org/breaking_bank_of_america_dumps_coal_mining_in_sweeping_new_policy