St. Lawrence County Branch of the American Association of University Women reflects on 2013
Tuesday, December 10, 2013 - 4:46 pm

To the Editor:

As 2013 draws to a close, the St. Lawrence County Branch of the American Association of University Women – which turned 132 on Thanksgiving – looks back on a year filled with action and advocacy, both here in New York State and nationally.

We were one of the first branches in New York State to sign on as partners with the 850+ Women’s Equality Coalition, which has worked tirelessly all year to educate and advocate for the economic, legal and social justice provisions of the Women’s Equality Agenda. AAUW-NYS is a member of the Steering Committee which guides the Coalition’s work and members across the state have been in the forefront of the WEA work.

Although disappointed in both the Assembly and state Senate who left Albany in June without making any of the provisions law, we are thankful for the leadership shown by the New York City Council who made important strides forward for many of the state’s women this year.

They passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a bill that ensures current protections against employer discrimination extend to pregnant workers, including the right to reasonable accommodations so that they can continue to work through their pregnancies. The council also enacted an important Earned Sick Time Act. The law will ensure that New Yorkers cannot be fired for taking a day off when they or certain family members are sick.

Sensible measures like these two important bills now cover 40% of the women working in the state. When the WEA Coalition begins advocating for these and other statewide measures in 2014, AAUW will be helping to lead the way forward.

Although the long-needed equal pay provision of WEA did not make into law here in NY, we’ve seen some national progress on updating the Equal Pay Act, which turned 50 years old in June. The Department of Labor rescinded two documents that had become barriers to investigating workplace pay discrimination claims.

Nationally, a comprehensive Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) was passed and signed into law this year. The next big effort will be to implement the campus safety provisions in VAWA. Campus safety is a critical part of Title IX, and AAUW-NYS earned a Public Policy Impact Grant from AAUW to work on this specific topic.

An important step forward in this process occurred when the U.S. Department of Education announced that its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) had entered into an agreement to ensure compliance with Title IX by the State University of New York (SUNY). OCR reviewed SUNY’s practices to ensure that each of the 29 state-operated campuses respond promptly and effectively to allegations of sexual harassment, including sexual violence.

Thanks to the generosity of members and donors, AAUW-St. Lawrence County again sent several county girls to summer camps and enrichment programs through our Open Windows for Girls program. Since 1989 this branch has been making a difference in the lives of girls with this program.

Along with our community parents, the League of Women Voters and WCKN, the Clarkson-student run public access TV station, AAUW produced a set of North Country Matters video magazines on topics of local interest and did five “Conversations with Candidates” prior to Election Day.

Our professional clothing fair, held each spring at SUNY Canton, provides folks an opportunity to get an upgraded wardrobe for that all-important job interview or student teaching assignment. Our annual scholarship – given this year to Gouverneur’s Rachel Reed in memory of long-time member Mary Bucher of Canton – assists a SUNY Canton graduate to further her educational goals.

We are thankful for the compassion and generosity of our members, leaders in many diverse fields, who make the work we do possible. Membership in the St. Lawrence County Branch, founded in 1927, is open to anyone who supports the mission of AAUW: Advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy, and research.

AAUW, with its nationwide network of more than 150,000 members and supporters, more than 1,000 branches conducting programs in communities across the country, and 869 college and university partners (including all four local collages), has been a leading advocate for equity and education for women and their families since 1881.

For more information about AAUW in St. Lawrence County, contact President Jennifer Ball at 268- 4208 or jball@clarkson.edu or Membership VP JoAnn Rogers at jrogers@clarkson.edu , or visit the branch website at www.northnet.org/stlawrenceaauw/index.html.

Donna Seymour

Potsdam