Homemakers’ Bill of Rights – 1979

NOW urges Congress to hold hearings during the 96th session on legislation establishing a Homemakers’ Bill of Rights. Following are the major provisions which should be included in the Bill.

I. Educational Rights for Homemakers

A. A tax policy which enables homemakers to deduct all educational expenses, including transportation costs and child care over the entire period of their schooling;

B. Revision of AFDC to cover all educational expenses and full costs of transportation and child care for homemakers who resume their schooling;

C. Provision of loans at modest rates of interest to homemakers who wish to pursue vocational, professional, or graduate training;

D. Incentives to businesses to train and hire homemakers, including a massive educational effort alerting corporations, organizations, and the government to the need to give special consideration to homemakers.

II. Economic Rights for Homemakers

A. Rights for Women in the Home

1. Revision of federal income tax forms to clearly indicate that all income listed on a joint income tax return is equally shared.

2. Elimination of gift taxes on interspousal transfers.

3. Inclusion in the GNP of the value of goods and services produced and provided by homemakers.

4. Provision of independent Social Security coverage, including disability, in the homemakers own name, portable in and out of marriage, and continuing as the homemaker leaves and re-enters the paid workforce.

5. Reform of the welfare system, including setting a Federal floor at the Bureau of Labor Statistics lower-living standard, and extension of coverage to all persons in need.

6. Increase and expansion of flex-time and part-time employment and job sharing opportunities. Twenty-four hour child care facilities must be made available so that parents of young children can be free to work varied hours. All flex- and part-time jobs must offer full fringe benefits.

7. Reform of civil and criminal laws to protect homemakers from spousal and domestic abuse.

B. Economic Rights for Homemakers in Transition

1. Equitable division of property and assets, including pensions and annuities, in recognition of the unpaid contributions of the homemaker in acquiring and maintaining the family’s assets;

2. Vigorous enforcement of maintenance (alimony) orders to assure compensation for the loss of educational opportunities, seniority, advancement, benefits and accrued protection the homemaker would have had if s/he had been in the paid workforce during the years of homemaking;

3. Funding of programs to provide displaced homemakers with job entry education, training, counseling and placement, and supportive service;

4. Eligibility of homemakers for unemployment compensation;

5. Revision of pension and Social Security laws so that divorced homemakers are entitled to retirement and disability benefits for their years of service, and so widowed homemakers are provided with special transition payments if they are not eligible for parent’s or retirement benefits;

6. Assurance of widows’ right to continued access to the family savings accounts, checking accounts, securities and safety deposit boxes and continuation of pensions, family insurance coverage, and other employment-related benefits.

Many of the provisions outlined in the Homemakers Bill of Rights must be extended to benefit other midlife women as well. Congress must take immediate action to provide short-term relief for women currently in midlife and at the same time develop long-term legislation, monitor and enforce existing laws and programs, and initiate mass public education efforts. Other measures needed to accomplish these goals are:

1. Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, and strengthened enforcement of existing sex and age discrimination laws. Passage of the ERA would guarantee justice on the job for women both in the marketplace and in the home, and assure that government regulated and funded programs in areas such as education and training, insurance, pensions, credit, etc., cannot discriminate on the basis of sex.

2. Increased education, training, and employment opportunities for women of all ages. For midlife women, special emphasis should be placed on short-term vocational training. Skills developed in volunteer jobs and homemaking should be identified and recognized as qualification for paid employment.

3. Development and enactment of a National Retirement Program, so that all citizens are assured a decent income in their later years. Comprehensive Social Security and Pension reform is needed which recognizes the value of homemaking, and which does not tie pension benefits to one locality or employer. Under current policies, pension plans are not transferable between employers, and pensions are provided mainly to reward workers for long years of loyal service. This results in age discrimination, when companies are reluctant to hire older workers who are likely to retire soon, and also restricts mobility and freedom of workers.

4. Passage of Comprehensive Child Care legislation, which enables all parents to obtain affordable, quality, 24-hour child care, and encourages schools to have supervised lunch hours, and before and after school programs.

5. Passage of Comprehensive Welfare Reform, instituting a decent federal floor, and allowing full deduction of all work-related and education expenses, including child care and transportation. Training, job-placement, and supportive services must be provided to give women a realistic option to work inside or outside the home.

6. Enactment of National Health Insurance which includes comprehensive coverage, especially in reproductive health areas, and provides rehabilitation for drug and alcohol abuse and depression.