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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

How Dems Can Win Votes of Working-Class Women

Sheerine Alemzadeh has a HuffPo article, “A Message to Clinton: Time to Lean In for Working Class Women,” which should be of interest to all Democratic campaigns, as well as to Hillary Clinton. Alemzadeh’s post illuminates inroads to winning this large constituency and “positions gender equality in a larger framework of intersecting class, race and social inequalities.”
Citing “millions of American women who desperately need a higher minimum wage, who work in exploitative and dangerous workplaces and who will never enjoy the basic economic security required to contemplate the possibility of having more than just enough to survive,” Alemzadeh adds,

…It’s time to elevate the voices of working class women who have bravely taken their employers, industries and elected representatives to task for maintaining a status quo that is not just unfair, but responsible for a labor standards floor so low that Americans’ collective understanding of decent employment has become woefully stunted.
This election cycle, candidates have an unprecedented opportunity address women’s economic justice as a live campaign issue. Living wages, equal pay for equal work, paid time off, subsidized childcare and employment accommodations for pregnant and nursing women are no longer politically untenable talking points. Candidates need to be ready for them. Not only have these questions made it into the public discourse, but they have actually made it to the offices of legislators, and in rare cases, onto the floor of Congress. Many states have passed bills to address federal stagnation around women’s economic justice issues. The cries for equality have become too loud to ignore…The meat of these issues, the very essence of them, is buried miles deeper in the underground economy. In ignoring how class and race inequalities intersect with sex inequality, Clinton would miss an opportunity to sell the truly far reaching benefits of gender parity reforms.
Without acknowledging the invisible labor of domestic workers which permits women to work outside the home, the full range of economic benefits of subsidized childcare, elder care and paid family medical leave remain unspoken. Subsidizing domestic work not only would benefit women who pay for it but also women who provide it — lifting them out of poverty level wages and into the formal economy. Paid family leave would also allow workers to take time off work when their family members are sick, creating more reliable schedules for all working families, including those whose breadwinners are paid caregivers.

Alemzadeh cites the heroic leadership of working-class women in often lonely battles against forms of workplace injustice, including

Working class women have been leaning in for all of us. Domestic workers across the country are lobbying for inclusion under basic labor laws. Restaurant workers are fighting against sexual harassment that is rampant in the industry. Fast food workers are making the case for a living wage. A lone delivery truck driver took the case for pregnancy accommodations all the way to the Supreme Court. Women’s economic equality rests on these women’s shoulders — without safe and dignified working conditions at the lowest rungs of the economy, efforts to truly eradicate gender inequality in the American workplace are destined for failure. And yet, the political work of these working women has not received the attention it deserves. As they stand in the way of an endless race to the bottom by unscrupulous economic actors, our presidential nominee needs to stand with them.

As Democrats seek to secure their identity as champions of economic reforms to help middle-class families, they should also provide a strong voice for the specific concerns of working-class women noted by Alemzadeh. An improved standing with this large constituency should benefit Democratic candidates down-ballot, as well as our candidate for the presidency.

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