Legislators called Wednesday for raising the minimum wage and tearing down gender barriers to unionized construction and manufacturing jobs to help eliminate income inequality for California women.
"Women have not shared equally in the emerging economy after the recession," state Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Canada Flintridge) said during the third meeting of the state Senate Select Committee on Women and Inequality, held in downtown L.A.
The panel was cosponsored by committee Chairwoman Holly J. Mitchell and U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, both Los Angeles Democrats. Bass took time out to assail Republicans in Congress, who she said were "absolutely ridiculous" for "manufacturing a crisis about Ebola."
Speakers at the public hearing at the YWCA Greater Los Angeles said more women, especially blacks and Latinas, needed to complete community college certificate programs that lead to higher-paying jobs.
One in four women in the U.S. and a third of single mothers live in poverty, according to testimony at earlier hearings. Women in California, which has the eighth-largest economy in the world, make 77 cents for every $1 men earn. About 40 % of children in female-headed households live on incomes below the federal poverty line, USC sociology professor Manuel Pastor testified.
Pastor outlined steps he wanted legislators to take to close the gender wage gap:
Address bias against women in manufacturing and construction jobs
Institute workplace flexibility so parents can care for a sick child without sanctions
Get women into science and technology careers
Raise the minimum wage further than Los Angeles' planned hike
Support single mothers completing community college work
Create affordable housing
Initiate relief for women without immigration documentation
Desiree Torres asked legislators to keep children out of the foster-care system. Torres, a former foster child, said she was treated differently than the biological children of her foster mother and she recalled the dread she would feel when she had to say goodbye to members of her biological family.
Her experiences motivated her to gain temporary custody of her sisters, ages 15 and 3, her 8-month-old brother and her 9-month old son, she said.
"They're everything to me," said Torres, adding she couldn't have done it without the help of a South Los Angeles group called Shields for Families, which provides substance abuse, mental health and other services for families at risk.
Child-care provider Gilberta Gonzalez pleaded with legislators to fund care for children of low-income parents, saying the next generation, if educated properly, will keep the California economy going.
"We are their second family," she said.
Bass closed the hearing by telling participants their testimony did not fall on deaf ears. "You speak, we listen and then we act," she said.