Priscilla Smith, a teacher aide and member of the Frontier Central Employees Association, who recently attended the White House Summit on Working Families:
Q. The summit was a daylong event. What was the purpose of the summit?
A. The White House Summit on Working Families brought together businessmen, elected officials, researchers and the everyday working citizen. It was an opportunity to focus on the need for policy change that can dramatically improve the economic lives of working women and families across America. American families have changed but our laws and workplaces haven’t kept up!
Q. The summit seemed to focus on working women. Tell us about that.
A. Women have increasingly entered the workplace. We now make up about half of our workforce yet we are still making only 77 cents for every dollar our male co-workers earn! We need laws that give women fair pay in the workplace.
Q. Your personal story is very powerful. You also are helping two children pay for college. How does this impact you financially?
A. Trying to keep up with tuition costs that have rapidly grown far more than our incomes has been quite a challenge for my family. My husband and I do our best so our children will realize their educational aspirations. We work multiple jobs and work longer hours. We want, more than anything, to enhance their opportunities.
Q.. You were able to make suggestions for change to the White House and Congress. What were they?
A. The White House and Congress need to address many issues facing our families. Most low-wage workers do not earn paid leave. The United States is the ONLY industrialized nation that does NOT guarantee working moms paid time off to care for a new child! Many low-wage workers lack paid sick days that can be used for short-term illnesses. The lack of pay can be devastating to our families. Also, we need to address affordable, quality childcare for our children. We need to strengthen our children’s development and keep them safe. We will help both our children and communities succeed.
Q. What benefit do you find in being NYSUT member?
A. Being a NYSUT member has given me, and my fellow members, a voice in the improvement and strengthening of our public education system. We are the advocates for our children and are committed, more than ever, to their success.