Published in 2015
For women in professional and corporate jobs, much of the discrimination and inequity faced in the past has been confronted—and at least to some extent, conquered. But the fact is that we have a two-tiered system, where some working women have a full panoply of rights while others have few or none at all. We allow blatant discrimination by small employers. Domestic workers are cut out of our wage and overtime laws. Part-time workers, disproportionately women, are denied basic benefits. Laws have been written through a process of compromise and negotiation, and in each case vulnerable workers were the bargaining chip that was sacrificed to guarantee the policy’s enactment. For these workers, the system that was supposed to act as a safety net has become a sieve—and they are still falling through.
Caroline Fredrickson is a powerful advocate and DC insider who has witnessed the legislative compromises that leave out temps, farmworkers, staff at small businesses, immigrants, and others who fall outside an intentionally narrow definition of “employees.” The women in this fast-growing part of the workforce are denied minimum wage, maternity leave, health care, the right to unionize, and protection from harassment and discrimination—all within the bounds of the law. If current trends continue, their fate will be the future of all American workers.