Moms Rising Against Job Discrimination

September 11, 2006

Editor’s Note: Joan Blades of MoveOn.org and MomsRising.org alerted me of a battle brewing in Pennsylvania to make it illegal for employers to ask potential workers of their marital and child status. In case you haven’t read the Motherhood Manifesto, Kiki Peppard is the single mother who is spearheading this effort. Here is an update on the anti-discriminatory bills she is pushing. -Elisa

Cross-posted from MomsRising blog.

By Cooper

Two of the more important things I have learned since becoming a mother are: 1) sometimes things happen for a reason; and 2) mothers, when moved to do so, will take the hill.

For me, BlogHer `06 represents a perfect union of these lessons.

I went to the BlogHer conference to talk about The Been There Clearinghouse, a site I co-founded a little over a year ago to help people displaced by Katrina. The Been There Clearinghouse took off when Hurricanehousing.org/MoveOn.org linked to us and sent evacuees our way. Within days, led by hundreds of networked “mom” bloggers, our site was sending help, one-to-one, to thousands of people.

On the last night of BlogHer `06, I had a few extra minutes before catching a red eye flight home. In a spur-of-the-moment decision (which, without my four kids at the conference, I could make) I took a quick left in the lobby and sat down for a special screening of the MomsRising.org documentary, The Motherhood Manifesto.

There, a few rows away, was the co-founder of MoveOn.org, Joan Blades, who is also co-founder of MomsRising. Cool.

The film went up and I immediately knew I was watching something revolutionary.

Early in the film, the story of a single mom named Kiki Peppard, from my state of Pennsylvania, is featured.

You see, Kiki, when she was new to the state, couldn’t find a job in Pennsylvania, because — as she was told by actual, would-be employers — she was a single mom of two. “We don’t want to have to pay your kids’ health benefits,” was one retort she got, when she asked why it mattered if she had kids.
In Kiki’s story, I found out something about Pennsylvania that I never knew: it is legal in this state (and in 27 others) to ask a potential employee if they are married, or if they have children, and base hiring decisions on that job applicant’s answers. As you can guess, this practice mostly hurts moms, especially single moms.

Yep, in Pennsylvania, it is legal to discriminate against mothers.

MOTHERS! I mean, we are the equivalent of baseball and apple pie in terms of national identity, right? Why is it then that every major metropolitan newspaper in this country has entire sections devoted to the subjects of food and sports and coverage of parenting and family life is minimal at best?

My slow burn of enlightenment was a full blaze by the time I sputtered up to Joan Blades when the lights went on in the room.

“We worked with some great people at MoveOn through our Katrina site! I live in Pittsburgh! I would love to help!” is what I think I managed to say.

When I arrived home the next morning, there was an email from Joan. “I want to make an introduction to Kiki,” Joan wrote.

A few minutes later, an email from Kiki arrived, and pretty soon the two of us were talking on the phone (for two hours.) Before we hung up, Kiki said to me, “You were supposed to go in and see that movie, I really believe that.”

For six years Kiki fought to get legislation introduced in this state that would protect job applicants from being asked marital and family questions. After finally getting sponsors, she’s been fighting six more years to get the legislation made into law. Right now, this legislation faces a critical deadline. If the bills, SB 440 and HB 352 don’t pass by the end of November, they die in committee — for the third time. It is a big question if they will be re-introduced.

Joan next introduced Kiki and me to Georgia Berner. Georgia, in turn, introduced us to Lindsay Patross. With my blog and business partner, Emily McKhann, MomsRising co-founder Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, and a number of very smart minds weighing in, a team for Pennsylvania mothers was born. Here is our website on MomsRising.org, including more information on the bills.

This year’s PA Governor’s Conference for Women is being held in Pittsburgh on September 14, and 4,000 Pennsylvania women are expected to be there.

Georgia, Lindsay and I are going to run a “MomsRising.org/PA” booth and we will be asking people to take action, call their state lawmakers as well as contact the two guys who chair the committees in which these bills are stalled:

Rep. Dennis O’Brien, PA House Judiciary Committee, 717-787-5689
Sen. John Gordner, PA Senate Committee on Labor and Industry, 717-787-8928

WHEN, this legislation gets passed, just THINK what it would mean to the rest of the country — mothers, banding together, to make a serious and significant change to the law to make lives better for moms and kids. I am talking MAJOR momentum.

We plan to keep all of you posted on our campaign here in PA, and the progress we make, but I also hope you join our team. If you have ideas, contacts or help you can offer, post them here or email me.

I know the power of moms, especially moms online, and there is no better example of that than MomsRising.org.

With mothers on board, it will all line up for Pennsylvania. Ladies (and gentlemen) it’s time to take the hill.