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VIDEO: Murray Keeps Up Drumbeat on Policies to Help Women Succeed In The 21st Century Economy

May 20 2014

Murray: “The issue of economic security for working women is critically important to our nation”

Murray: Retirement security for women “huge economic issue”

Washington, D.C— Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), senior member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, attended a HELP roundtable on economic security for working women to continue highlighting the challenges women and their families face in today’s economy. Senator Murray discussed with expert witnesses the need to ensure women and their families can succeed by raising the minimum wage, expanding access to affordable child care, and helping women gain financial security for retirement.

A transcript is available below and video is available here. Additional information on Senator Murray’s efforts to promote policies that help women and their families can be found here and here.  

Transcript of Senator Murray’s remarks:

SENATOR MURRAY: Thank you very much Mr. Chairman for having this hearing. I think the issue of economic security for working women is critically important to our nation today as we try to grow our economy. I just had a hearing on my Budget Committee on this issue last week, what are the policies, what are the things we need to be doing as a nation today to make sure that women can participate fully in the workforce. Everything from minimum wage to childcare, and I think we have to be looking at our country to say, “What are we doing?” So I appreciate you holding this hearing, and to all of our witnesses who are here today.

SENATOR MURRAY: Let me focus my time on a slightly different end of the spectrum for women, and that is retirement security. We know that only about half of the workers in the private sector today have access to an employer-based retirement plan. That is a figure that drops to about 30 percent for workers in businesses with fewer than a hundred employees. And surprisingly in such a wealthy nation, about 45 percent of all of our workers have no retirement assets at all. Forty-five percent! That is pretty bad news for everyone, but in particular it does lead to worse retirement conditions for women. Among people 65 and older, women have less retirement income and face a greater risk of poverty than men, and one in three women today depends on Social Security as their sole source of income. So I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that we have a crisis in America today when it comes to retirement, for women in particular. And I wanted to open it up to any of you who would like to comment on that. And Ms. Tanden we’ll start with you.

NEERA TANDEN, President, Center for American Progress: I agree on the points you are making. I thank you for your leadership on this issue, Senator Murray, and on issues such as universal pre-K and childcare that are so critical for working families. I would just note that issues of pay disparity for women have retirement implications. Because as women are paid less throughout their career, that accumulates also in having a disparate pay in their retirement benefits, which are tied to salary. So, as we look at the retirement issues and the real anxiety that so many women, especially older women, have about being able to face retirement, and we also need to recognize what happens in the employment practice and the fact that we still have these disparities. And these disparities replicate themselves in retirement as well.

LORI PELLETIER, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Connecticut State Federation of Labor: Thank you Senator. In Connecticut, a study was done, and again we are a wealthy nation, and Connecticut is a wealth state, but one out of seniors lives in poverty in Connecticut. If you think about the fact that women as a whole, if over the course of their work career continually make 23 cents less, basically, under a 40 year work life, they work ten years for nothing. So that absolutely has something to do with retirement security. And so in Connecticut in this past year we were able to work with the governor’s office and get a study to look at a potential retirement for all, state run, employee contributed retirement funds so that people may have a chance to put some money away, because the people working 7 or 8 different jobs in their career, they are not staying with their employer, this would at least give them the security so that they would know they can still put money …

SENATOR MURRAY: Can you do that now?

PELLETIER: Yeah, the committee is supposed to convene by July 1st and work and come back with recommendations, specific recommendations. So it is very important, again, in Connecticut, one out of every four seniors lives in poverty.

ELLEN BRAVO, Executive Director, Family Values at Work: Making sure that women have access to affordable time for caregiving will also help their retirement income. Fewer people will lose their jobs, and fewer people will lose their income, which effects the pay disparities. So that’s another thing, thank you so much for bringing this up.

MURRAY: I think sometimes we don’t connect all of the policies that we talk about today, that we think are so important, whether it is making sure you have childcare so that you can stay at work, whether it is pay equity, how that impacts your finances, both today and when you retire. The issue that so many women come in and out of the workforce when they have kids because our policies these days make it tough. What happens is all of a sudden you are retired and your only source of income is Social Security, which I think is about $13,000, maybe a little more than that, a year for someone to exist on as their sole source of income, and one in three women as I said today depends on that small amount of money. So it is a huge economic issue. I am out of time, but this is something that I welcome your input on, and I hope we can focus on this issue Mr. Chairman.