Sen. Gillibrand says time to level the field for working women

By Matt Porter

February 3, 2014 Updated Feb 3, 2014 at 7:49 PM EDT

Ithaca, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) announces a plan to level the playing field for working women and strengthen the middle class.

Gillibrand said times have changed with the number of single mothers as breadwinners rising from 11 percent to 44 percent since the statistics were kept.

"The face of the American workplace has changed," Gillibrand said. "The new face of our workplace over the last few decades is increasingly becoming women."

The junior senator made her announcement at Ithaca College, the first time a sitting senator visited the campus in more than two decades.

Gillibrand wants to reform the Family and Medical Leave Act so people choosing to interrupt their work to take care of a sick child or loved one will be paid a portion of their salary during their leave.

The plan allows for a worker to receive up to 66 percent of their wage while on leave, but it would have a cap and be indexed toward inflation.

She said a .2 percent tax on all wages, similar to taxes on Medicare and Social Security, could pay for the program, which would act as a trust fund.

Ithaca College president Thomas Rochon said he supports Gillibrand's effort to reform laws to help the large amount of women now in the workforce.

"Since 58 percent of our students are women, we need to be attentive to everything that will be able to enable them to be as successful as their male counterparts," Rochon said.

Gillibrand supports tax credits to help women pay for childcare, and also calls for universal pre-Kindergarten.

Brianna Fariager, a senior interested in pursuing clinical psychology, said she wants the chance to be a professional and a mother.

"I would like to be a professional. I would like to go into therapy and also have a family," Fariager said. "With what she's talking about now, those opportunities seem to be more and more feasible."

Gillibrand also called for raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour over the next three years. Something she said will bolster the entire middle-class, not just women.

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