ICYMI: U.S. Rep. Lawrence Delivers Floor Speech Advocating for the Care Economy, Women, and the Build Back Better Agenda
Washington, DC - Yesterday, U.S. Representative Brenda L. Lawrence (MI-14), Co-Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus, delivered a speech on the House floor advocating for investments in the care economy, women, and the Build Back Better Agenda. Since the start of the pandemic, women have lost more than two million jobs. Additionally, women’s participation in the labor workforce is down to 57 percent. The Build Back Better Agenda supports women’s employment and strengthens family economic security by increasing access to affordable child care and home- or community-based care; creating a national comprehensive paid family and medical leave program; boosting compensation for child care and home care workers; extending the expanded monthly Child Tax Credit; and offering universal free preschool to all three- and four-year old children.
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Text of Rep. Lawrence’s speech can be found below:
“I want to recognize the strong leadership of our co-chair, not only just now in her leadership role in the Democratic Women, but throughout her tenure in Congress, Jackie Speier, thank you for this special order hour.
“Since the start of this pandemic, women have lost more than 2 million jobs and our labor force is down to, for women, it’s down to 57%.
“Why does that matter? It's because the women labor force participation, please hear this number, contributes more than $7 trillion dollars to the US GDP every year. So when you talk about building back with women, there is an economic incentive for us to do that in America.
“But the reality is far too many women in the United States who care for their children and the elders in their families, they are looking at situations where it's far too expensive.
“We heard the description of my two colleagues caring for their elder parents. Do you know what that would mean if they didn't have a child care or elder care system to take care of them?
“But the reality in America, there are women who call in sick, who take off from work because they have a child that is suffering with cancer or a parent who is dying and they are the only ones to do this and they cannot afford to pay for it.
“We know that caring for our loved ones should not force women to make a choice between the two. In Michigan, 44% of the Michiganders live in a child care desert.
“So as we talk about this, some people go like, you know, let them figure it out. In some scenarios, there’s not even a child care facility for the parent to even consider or try to figure out how to pay for it.
“The reality, there are such a large number of women who work two jobs, one to pay for childcare and one to put food, shelter, and clothing on their children because there are not other options. They can’t afford the child care.
“So do I lose my home and have child care? They work two jobs and being away from home for an extended period of time has its own built in problems.
“And I want you to know that the Build Back Better agenda increases the access to affordable child care. How amazing is it to say that every family in America will not have to pay more than 7% of their income for child care.
“We talk about child care workers and I just want to go back to the page that my colleague was just talking about. Disproportionately, when we are in that point where we have need, it’s a woman that knocks on our door to provide the child care. It is a woman who knocks on the door to take care of our elderly and disproportionately, they are women of color, Black women, Hispanic women, Asian women, who are in the majority of care in this country.
“And what do we do? We say our children and elders are our most precious in our family. I will walk through fire for my child, there is nothing I won't do for my parent, but we disrespect these workers every day with these pathetic salaries that we have in America.
“In the Build Back agenda, we will be boosting the compensation for our care workers so that they can feel the respect and the honor and go home and take care of their own families.
“You know I was a dear friend of Aretha Franklin and every time I talk about this, I think about that song, all I'm asking for is just a little respect.
“In America, how can we say something that is so precious to us, that we disrespect those who show up and hold the hands and wipe the nose of our children, who tuck in our elders and sometimes there when they take their last breath.
“America, we can do better. I want you to know that building back better and we have coined the term and we will not walk away from that, our colleagues are working, because we can Build Back Better in this country with the human infrastructure but you can't do it unless you Build Back Better with women.
“And that means paying attention to the service, to the need for care, for the need to invest in our human infrastructure. If you want to improve poverty in America, invest in jobs and invest in women.
“The majority of poverty, those in poverty in the United States of America are women head of households, who have children.
“We make an effort to ensure that no one goes hungry in America, but we disrespect those who care for our loved ones.
“I want you to know that I'm standing here today locking arms with my colleagues, I want to and I will demand that America Build Back Better.
“I know that my colleagues in the Democratic Women's Caucus, they are fired up and ready to go because we know this opportunity to put our thumbprint on the values of America, of what we are going to do, is laid out in Build Back Better.
“We know, we are negotiating and we are fighting and we will not step down, just like the women who were suffrage women who fought and knew it was time to stand up, march, chain ourselves to a fence, whatever we have to do, that we are going to continue to Build Back Better and we are making this investment.
“We have a President who has joined and locked arms, we have a Speaker of the House who has joined and locked arms with us and the Democratic Caucus, we are saying that Build Back Better will build back families and it will transform the lives of women in America.
“Our country, we can't wait any longer. From infrastructure, a pothole is an inconvenience but we need to fix our potholes, we need to make sure that our children are not drinking lead or poisoned water.
“We need to make sure that our bridges and all those are fixed. But we also need to know that the human beings in this country deserve our passion, our work in the Build Back Better agenda.
“I thank you and I will yield back.”