As Kiki Calls It, "A Week of Enlightenment"
Across Pennsylvania, in Harrisburg, in Washington, DC, in the blogs and over the airwaves, our campaign for the mothers of Pennsylvania, and everywhere, reached new, exciting, and interesting heights this week.
Let's start with Kiki in Harrisburg:
Kiki delivered a 123 page, 5,200 name petition to key lawmakers in Harrisburg, much to the amazement, and befuddlement, of some legislative staffers. “That is not true!” exclaimed one staffer when Kiki told her that in Pennsylvania it was legal to ask about marriage and family in a job interview. The especially disturbing part about that exchange is the staffer works for Sen. John Gordner - who appears hell-bent to stall the legislation in his committee until it dies - as Mr. Gordner obviously isn’t sharing the legislation with people in his office. Kiki did learn from members of Gordner’s staff that within the past week or two, calls and emails have flooded their office from all over the country regarding that “mysterious” SB 440. (You guys ROCK!)
Keep the calls and emails going, they are absolutely being noticed:
PA State Senator John R. Gordner, chairman Labor & Industry Committee
Phone: 717-787-8928; e-mail: email@example.com
PA State Representative Dennis O’Brien, chairman of Judiciary Committee (which is stalling HB 352 in the PA House)
Phone: 717-787-5689; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Our petition is making noise too, gang, so sign it or send it to your friends if you haven’t done so already:
Now, on to Joan, Kristin, Laura and Emily in Washington, DC:
First of all, I must tell you, Emily McKhann, my blog and business partner who attended the screening of The MotherHood Manifesto on Capitol Hill on Thursday, said over and over again to me how mind blowingly impressive Joan Blades, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner and Laura Pacheco were at the event. Coupled with the fact that they were presenting at the front of the room with some of the most important leaders in our country (Sens. Clinton, Obama, Kennedy, Dodd!) well, Emily said it was beyond amazing.
From Joan Blades:
The event went better than I could have imagined. There was a crowd, people spilling out the doors, but not uncomfortable, and cute babies! (Sen. Obama did some very nice baby holding. I’d already played with the baby he was holding, a big eyed wondering kind of baby who I could tell found me fascinating.) There was so many good people and conversation. Even though our invitation said it, I was still surprised to see Senators Clinton, Dodd, Kennedy and Obama sitting up at the front of the room for Kristin and I to introduce. Kristin was fabulous, all the more articulate in spite or perhaps spurred on by the stylish but increasingly painful red high heel shoes! (It was our running joke as the day wore on…pun almost intended.) The Senators spoke very personally about why these issues were important to them. Laura introduced the film speaking about how as a film maker she often filmed extraordinary things but these were extraordinary people all with ordinary concerns that so many of us share. After the movie I was stunned when the crowd wanted to stay and talk for a while. This was a three hour event! (Staffers were amazed to see a crowd on a Thurs. night when the Senate was in session.) The people there were moved by the issue. The woman that tended the bar wanted Kristin and I to sign a book for her! In over a decade of doing this work, this was the meeting that most spoke to her in all those years. Funny how in some ways this felt like perhaps the greatest validation of all. I am hugely relieved and happy. It was a wonderful event thanks to many people’s hard work and heartfelt engagement. I am very hopeful. I think we just might be able to do something amazing together!
I mean, come on everybody, that is incredible!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WAY TO GO Joan, Kristin and Laura, talk about HUGE!
It is an interesting irony that while so many people on Capitol Hill were astonished and dismayed by the fact that it was legal in Pennsylvania to ask prospective employees if they are married or have children and base hiring decisions on the answers, I was on a radio program in Pittsburgh with small business owners who demanded they be allowed to ask exactly those questions.
Yep, so I close this weekly re-cap with a story about going on a talk radio show:
It all started off well. The Marty Griffin show, which is a hugely popular program in Western Pennsylvania on KDKA Radio, wanted to talk to me about the article I had written for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Marty is married to a TV news anchor, has a 22 month old daughter and his wife is pregnant with their second child. So, he explained, he understands the situation. Having never been on a radio program before, I was pleased with how well the half hour was going - great, fun conversation with Marty, talking about Kiki and Pennsylvania, and Marty seemed to be supportive and interested.
Then Marty started to take calls.
The first caller was a very angry small business owner. “I will never hire another single mother again. I completely disagree with all this. Single mothers have ruined my business,” he huffed.
Wow. I pointed out a few things: Making blanket generalizations is wrong and dangerous. It sounds like he’s had some bad luck with some hires. Perhaps there are some management issues going on? But, no, this guy was mad. I think, in retrospect, he is always going to be mad.
The next caller was female, and in my own way I made a generalization because I heard her and immediately thought, “Thank God, a friend!” Nope, another angry small business owner. She too insisted that single mothers were trouble and unreliable and terrible for business. I could tell Marty was starting to think a little differently about the issue.
Again I pointed out how vital the legislation is simply because of these ways of thinking. When I brought up being more flexible, the caller went bananas. What! My business is barely surviving! If that single mom doesn’t show up early to open up my shop I am screwed!
At this point I was writing huge notes to myself and hanging them up on the wall, because it was getting pretty dicey, and I needed to stay focused.
The last caller was yet another bitter small business owner, and we went through the same old dance as with the previous calls. I was starting to wonder where on earth the single moms were who were hearing all this and getting steamed? Would any of them call or email? I don’t know. What about all the business owners I have talked to who said over and over that they only hire moms because they are the best workers?
Marty said he would have me back on, and I hope he meant it. If any of you have a story or some information that can help me next time, please let me know. The hot seat would be much more fun if I had spectacular ammo. We set up an email just for this campaign, so you can get me there: email@example.com.
I will leave you with this wonderful insight from Joan:
I’ve been thinking about how interesting it is that I spoke to a room full of legislative people on the Hill who couldn’t believe that asking a woman if she was married and had kids is legal the same day Cooper was speaking with business owners insisting they needed the ability to ask. I think it is a valuable contrast, so many folks really find it hard to believe that these questions for women are legal, being able to tell them stories of business owners that insist upon the right makes it pretty darned clear that it is a real need.
PS. I forgot to mention how much I love you bloggers. You have taken this issue on in such a big way. An example: If you googled the term "maternal profiling," the title of the article I wrote for the Post-Gazette, two weeks ago, you would have gotten zero hits. If you google it today, you will get over 20,000. That fact alone says volumes about the power of blogs.