Hillary Clinton has said it countless times over the years in her fight to elevate women: human rights are women's rights, and women's rights are human rights. Unfortunately, our DC Council doesn't seem to take those words to heart. In a city that is majority female, our DC Council falls short when it comes to hearing, understanding, representing, and advocating for women.
DC is home to some of the worst health disparities in the nation, particularly when it comes to women's health. If DC were a state, it would have the highest maternal mortality rate in the nation. The exact number stands at around 40 deaths per 100,000 births, more than double the national average. And at the most conservative estimates, black women are more than twice as likely as white women to die in childbirth, an outright injustice. DC families have faced this tragedy for decades, and the city has quietly sidestepped it.
The DC Council has refused to fund the elimination of the tampon tax, which places an unfair burden on women and families throughout DC, who are paying an estimated $3 million per year in tax on essential hygiene products. The city is choosing to profit from menstrual health products that are considered medically essential to keep women and children healthy, by instituting a tax that does not apply to any other necessary preventive healthcare service. This inaction hits low-income women and families, and persons of color, the hardest, making the delay in implementing this legislation all the more inexcusable.
The DC Council is also ignoring the needs of our female workforce, and in many instances actively working against them. In 2016, the Council voted against eliminating the tipped minimum wage. Seventy percent of tipped workers are women, and over 90 percent of those women have reported experiencing sexual harassment in the workplace. Seven progressive states have addressed this issue, and raised or eliminated the tipped minimum wage. In those states, the rate of reported sexual harassment in restaurants is half that of the 43 states that have not increased the tipped minimum wage. Experts believe this is because an increase in the tipped minimum wage allows servers to pay their bills, and as a result empowers them to stand up to predatory customers. The DC Council voted down a measure that would have eliminated the tipped minimum wage. My opponent cast the deciding vote.
We can do better. When we start electing people who prioritize our needs and our health, we will.