The Equalizing Work Of The 1970s Is Back On The Agenda

By Lori Sturdevant
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Stamped on the cover of the folio several hundred participants in Thursday’s Women’s Economic Security Summit in St. Paul received were two big, red words: “UNFINISHED BUSINESS.”

The stamp was adjacent to mention of the Women’s Economic Security Act, a multipart push to improve the lot of working women that got about half as far as its advocates wanted in last year’s legislative session. The coalition behind it is back this year, pushing for paid sick leave, paid leave for new parents and family caregivers, protection against workplace discrimination against caregivers, and more.

But to summit attendees whose feminist histories stretch back 30 or 40 years, “unfinished business” signified a lot more than last year’s legislative leftovers.

It evoked the broader aim of the women’s movement of the 1970s — the notion that not only would women be allowed to play more roles in work and society, but also that work and society would adapt to that new reality. New ways would be found for men and women to share in the responsibilities of adulthood — chief among them nurturing children and tending frail elderly relatives — as the two genders shared more fully in earning a living and upholding their communities.

That adaptation has been slow in coming — even in Minnesota, long a leader in the share of women employed outside the home. But lately, I think I see adaptation picking up speed.

I’d like to borrow that “unfinished business” ink stamp, so I could smack it on a big chunk of the 2016-17 state budget Gov. Mark Dayton proposed to the Legislature last week. Take his child care tax credit. It would send an estimated 130,000 families what would amount to rebates for out-of-pocket expenses for child care or the care of a disabled or elderly family member.

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