LANSING – State Representative Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) has been elected to serve as chairwoman of the Progressive Women’s Caucus, a group of Lansing legislators committed to fighting for equal pay, women’s access to health care and other critical issues affecting women and their families. Other leaders elected include Vice Chairwoman Rep. Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills), Secretary Rep. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) and Treasurer Rep. Vanessa Guerra (D-Saginaw).

“As women in the legislature, it’s important for us to keep in mind the impact of proposed policies on women and families, and to ensure that our voices are heard in the legislative process,” Brinks said. “The Progressive Women’s Caucus can be a valuable resource to its members by providing support and valuable knowledge to our newly elected members. It’s critical that we impact what happens in our state’s Legislature so that women’s perspectives are not overlooked, despite the fact that we are underrepresented. I look forward to leading this very impressive group of women as we move forward.” 

The Progressive Women’s Caucus will be instrumental in advancing legislation that will close the wage gap, ensure women can affordably address all their health care needs and help their families achieve financial security. The PWC includes Democratic women legislators in the House and Sen. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor).

“The Progressive Women’s Caucus works for legislation that is important not only to women, but to their husbands, sons, fathers and brothers,” Greig said. “When a woman is prevented from earning her worth, or kept from getting critically important cancer screenings that can save her life, it affects her entire family. I’m proud to be working with other women legislators on policies that will benefit not just women, but all Michiganders.”

Women’s ability to access health care has been under attack in recent years. New, highly restrictive laws have placed undue burdens on the women’s health care centers that many lower-income women rely on to get cancer screenings, and a new state law requires women to purchase additional health insurance in order to cover medical care following a miscarriage.

“A democracy functions best when laws treat all individuals fairly and equally, and yet many groups within our democratic citizenry have unique needs and concerns that also deserve attention,” Geiss said. “Issues surrounding women’s health, neonatal and infant health, or those relating to a mother’s ability to feed and care for an infant without restriction or inhibition impact the overall health and well-being of our communities and our economy. These issues should be among the primary concerns of all legislators of both genders.”

Republicans also blocked legislation introduced in the previous session that would address the persistent wage gap between men and women. In Michigan, women earn 74 cents to each dollar earned by men, which is worse than the national wage gap of 77 percent.

“People overwhelmingly support the idea of equal pay for equal work, and yet Republicans in Michigan have put up roadblocks to keep this from becoming a reality,” Guerra said. “Women – and the families who depend on them – simply want a fair deal in the workplace. I’m proud to work with my colleagues in the Progressive Women’s Caucus to make this a reality in Michigan.”