February is African American History Month
The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society.
As a Harvard-trained historian, Carter G. Woodson, like W. E. B. Du Bois before him, believed that truth could not be denied and that reason would prevail over prejudice. His hopes to raise awareness of African American's contributions to civilization were realized when he and the organization he founded, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), conceived and announced Negro History Week in 1925. The event was first celebrated in 1926 during a February week that encompassed the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. The response was overwhelming: Black history clubs sprang up; teachers demanded materials to instruct their pupils; and progressive whites, not simply white scholars and philanthropists, stepped forward to endorse the effort.
By the time of Woodson's death in 1950, Negro History Week had become a central part of African American life and substantial progress had been made in getting more Americans to appreciate the celebration. At mid-century, mayors of cities nationwide issued proclamations noting Negro History Week. The Black Awakening of the 1960s dramatically expanded African Americans' consciousness about the importance of black history, and the Civil Rights movement focused Americans of all color on the subject of African Americans' contributions to our history and culture.
The celebration was expanded to a month in 1976, the nation's bicentennial. President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” That year, fifty years after the first celebration, the association held the first African American History Month. By this time, the entire nation had come to recognize the importance of Black history in the drama of the American story. Since then, each American president has issued African American History Month proclamations. And the association—now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH)—continues to promote the study of Black history all year.
(Excerpt from an essay by Daryl Michael Scott, Howard University, for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History)
Women’s Job Growth Halts in January
Men Have Regained 81 Percent of Jobs Lost in the Recession
Washington, DC—According to an Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) analysis of the February employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), women lost 51,000 jobs on nonfarm payrolls in January, while men gained 164,000 for a net increase of 113,000 jobs. As of January, women have more than recovered all their jobs lost in the recession, while men have regained 81 percent (4.9 million) of the jobs they lost.
In January, women’s employment growth was weakest in Government (30,000 jobs lost by women) and Professional and Business Services (14,000 jobs lost by women). In what had been a growing sector for women, Education and Health Services saw women’s job losses for a second consecutive month (3,000 jobs lost for women in January and 2,000 in December). “Women’s job growth over the last 18 months had buoyed the slow, but steady, growth of the economy,” said IWPR President Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D. “Men’s job gains in January are an encouraging sign of a recovering economy, but both men and women need to see stronger job growth in order to get family incomes growing again.”
The February employment report includes annual benchmarking revisions to the payroll data back to January 2009. According to these latest estimates, women held more than halfof the jobs on payrolls for a ten month period, from the official end of the recession in June 2009 through March 2010. In the last year, from January 2013 to January 2014, of the 2.2 million jobs added to payrolls, 46 percent were filled by women (1,038,000 jobs), and 54 percent were filled by men (1,200,000 jobs).
Among single mothers, the unemployment rate increased from 8.7 percent in December to 9.1 percent in January, indicating continued difficulty for these women in finding jobs. There has been no improvement over the past year in the average number of weeks spent unemployed and looking for work, which was 35.4 weeks in both January 2013 and January 2014.
Today marks the 21st anniversary of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which mandates that certain employees receive job-protected unpaid leave to care for themselves, an immediate family member, a newborn, or a newly adopted child. Some 100 million U.S. workers have enjoyed time off because of the FMLA, and most employers have reported no negative impact on business profitability or productivity because of the law.
However, too many people have been unable to enjoy FMLA's benefits. Most worksites are not covered by the FMLA. The law applies only to public agencies and private sector employers with 50 or more employees. And many workers are not covered by the law. It covers only employees who have worked for the same employer for at least one year and who worked 1,250 hours the previous year. A 2012 study of the impact of the FMLA found that around 40 percent of the workforce is not eligible for guaranteed unpaid leave. Even if someone is eligible for FMLA leave, it may not be affordable. Nearly 50 percent of workers with an unmet need for leave explain that they cannot afford to take time off.
The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act), introduced in December 2013 by Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), would significantly improve workers' ability to take leave by allowing workers to take paid time off to address a serious illness of their own or to care for a family member, new baby or adopted child. Employees would be able to earn up to 12 weeks of paid family leave each year through the creation of a national insurance fund. Both employers and employees would contribute to the fund, which would be administered through a new Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave within the Social Security Administration. All workers who are eligible for Social Security disability benefits would be covered by the law.
: Tell your representatives that no one should have to risk financial insecurity to care for a loved one.