COLUMBUS -- The former speaker of the U.S. House urged an audience at the Statehouse Tuesday to support an increase in the minimum wage, paid sick leave, affordable child care and other legislation aimed at supporting women in the workplace.
At issue for Democratic Congressman and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and others is the disparity in pay levels for women versus their male counterparts.
"We do honestly believe, if you want to grow the U.S. economy, the best thing you can do is engage women in the economic growth of our country," Pelosi said, adding, "... A large part of the economic growth of America in the last half of the 20th century was because of the increased involvement of women in the economy."
Pelosi and several other Democratic lawmakers, including Ohio Congressman Joyce Beatty, D-Columbus, made the Columbus stop as part of the "When Women Succeed, America Succeeds: Women on a Roll" bus tour, spotlighting disparities in women's pay. Later stops were planned in Cleveland and Toledo.
Pelosi said Democrats in the U.S. House have offered numerous bills on issues that would help women in the workplace, providing better pay and more options for the care for their children. But those bills don't have enough support for passage.
"We know what the problem is," Pelosi said. "We have the legislative solutions. What is missing are the votes. We only need 17 votes (to raise the minimum wage and implement paycheck fairness, paid sick leave and quality, affordable child care). ... The minimum wage we have now does not even have the purchasing power of the minimum wage in 1968."
The bus tour prompted a fundraising email from the Ohio Republican Party and a statement from the Republican leader of the Ohio House about GOP-backed legislation to help women succeed economically.
The latter included HB 575, which calls for the creation of an Ohio Economic Council on Women "to examine employment policies and practices, educational needs and opportunities, child care, property rights, health care and the effects of federal and state law on women."
"Through common sense legislation, we are effecting real change, rather than using tired rhetoric," House Speaker Bill Batchelder, R-Medina, said in a released statement. He added later, "It is through the passage of legislation like this, not through the spending of millions of dollars by the Democratic Party to support various rallies, that we will see substantive progress concerning women in the workforce."