A coalition of over 200 women’s organizations, including the Feminist Majority, has called on Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao to strengthen the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau. The Women’s Bureau, the only federal bureau concerned with working women’s issues, is facing a reduced budget and staff cuts that could serve to diminish the role of the Bureau.
According to the National Council of Women’s Organizations (NCWO), both President Bush and the House Appropriations Committee have proposed reduced funding for the Bureau in 2007. The Senate Appropriations Committee has recommended an increase in funding of $334,000, but this amount would only reinstate the 2002 funding levels of the Bureau. Furthermore, career positions at the Women’s Bureau soon could be filled by government contractors, instead of staff who are dedicated to the mission and principles of the bureau. With outsourcing of career jobs at the Bureau, NCWO and others fear a loss of important “institutional memory.” Finally, vacant administrator positions in ten of the Bureau’s regional offices have not been filled, leaving administrators in other offices with the extra burden of being in charge of more than one region. This combination of less funding, fewer career staff, and vacant administrator positions may result in a less effective Bureau.
Joan Kuriansky, executive director of Wider Opportunities for Women, emphasizes the significant work of the Women’s Bureau and the need for Secretary Chao to promote its essential role: “Unfortunately, women are still not treated fairly in the workplace. Today, women are paid only 76 cents for every dollar that men are paid, and too many women are in jobs that do now provide self-sufficiency wages or benefits É Without a fully funded, fully staffed Women’s Bureau, working women are being left behind. We ask Secretary Chao to lead the effort to revitalize the Women’s Bureau to ensure that America’s working women are treated fairly in the workplace.”