- PositionHawaii Congresswoman
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) answered questions sent by Fortune and Time’s Up in a video filmed by her campaign. The following transcript of that video response has been edited for length and clarity.
Fortune/Time’s Up: Do you believe that the United States should have comprehensive paid family and medical leave? And if so, what is your proposal to make it happen?
Gabbard: Unfortunately, there are millions of people all across our country who are living paycheck to paycheck, working hard, but still barely able to make ends meet—living with fear and insecurity that there will be some unexpected expense that affects their families, that affects their loved ones. Without a national family leave program in place, really what that means to many Americans across this country is they’ve got to make a choice: a choice between taking care of their family or ensuring their financial security.
That’s a very difficult, even an impossible choice for anyone to make. This is why I support paid family leave, and why I’m a co-sponsor of the FAMILY Act in Congress, to make sure that this is not a choice that any American has to make—and that every American can live with that peace of mind that when there is a newborn that’s come into their family, or a loved one gets sick, that they’ll be able to go and provide that care during that important time for their family, without fear of being put out on the street or going bankrupt.
How will you ensure that families who need it have access to safe, affordable childcare?
There are two main ways that I would approach doing this. Number one is implementing universal basic income that would provide the freedom and choice to parents to be able to decide whether or not one of the parents wants to be able to stay home and to be able to provide that care to their child themselves. Or to be able to pay for childcare if that’s not an option and they need to return to work sooner than they expected.
The second main thing that we need to do as a country is to expand the universal pre-K program. Right now this pre-K education and childhood development opportunity is not open and available to all Americans. I’d work with Congress and state and local governments and nonprofits to be able to expand that program for all Americans.
Do you think institutions—from Congress to Fortune 500 companies—have done enough to address sexual harassment? What have you done, and what will you do, to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace?
There is still so much work that needs to be done to ensure accountability in the workplace, transparency, and true justice for survivors of sexual assault and those who have been dealing with sexual harassment.
We’ve seen unfortunately this norm perpetuated in the workplace and across our society where survivors of sexual assault are often bullied, and shamed, and treated with a terrible stigma that further worsens the pain and the hardship that they have gone through. We need real leadership to bring about a culture shift in our country, whether it’s in the private sector or the public sector. It’s why I’ve co-sponsored and supported legislation like the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, why I’m a co-sponsor of the POWER Act, and have led the charge in the House of Representatives to fight against sexual assault in the military.
The Military Justice Improvement Act really seeks to bring about this culture shift in our military to make sure that there is transparency, that those who are survivors of sexual assault have someone to speak to, that they have an advocate who will work on their behalf. And that there is a clear path toward justice so the perpetrators of these crimes are held accountable. And so that every American can live without fear that they have to go to work every day in a place that is not safe for them.
Women in the United States earn 80 cents on white men’s dollar in wages, a gap that gets even wider for black women, Latinas, and Native American women. What is your plan to work with employers to close the pay and opportunity gap for women, including women of color, LGBTQ women, and working mothers?
Wage discrimination is the unfortunate reality that for so long hardworking Americans, especially women, across this country have been struggling with. This is the reality that unfortunately disproportionately negatively impacts women of color.
This is something that we must correct in this country. Now, we’ve had laws that are supposed to uphold equal pay for equal work for a very long time, but sadly we see how that is not reflected in practical application.
This is one of the reasons why I’ve supported, as a member of Congress, the Paycheck Fairness Act that institutes real layers of protection for those who are dealing with wage discrimination to hold their employers accountable and to correct it so that there is truly equal pay for equal work in this country.
As President I would sign the Paycheck Fairness Act into law because it provides workers with protection against employers who seek to retaliate against them for disclosing wage differences between themselves and others in their job who are doing the exact same work, but perhaps getting significantly higher pay for it.
Workers have to have due process. And the ability to make sure that their voices are heard without risk of being retaliated against or losing their job—this is a simple act of fairness and making sure that there is accountability for those employers who choose not to abide by an equal pay for equal work law.
Do you support policies that require corporations to have women and other underrepresented groups on corporate boards? Why or why not?
I think the federal government should not overstep its boundaries and start to dictate to corporations and corporate boards the demographics that have to be represented on those boards.
However, there must be a concerted effort to encourage the professional development and opportunities of women who for so long and for so many reasons have been held back from those opportunities. This is something that we are seeing as necessary in the private sector, as well as in our government and the military.
Would you—and how would you—propose to strengthen protection for people who need accommodations to do their jobs while pregnant or who are discriminated against because of their pregnancies at work?
Discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace is still a very real problem. Even though the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978, unfortunately we have not seen enough protections in place to ensure that a woman does not feel like she has to make this choice between keeping her job and beginning a family.
This is why it’s important that we pass legislation like the Pregnant Workers [Fairness Act]. It’ll provide additional layers of protection for fairness, for women who are working and having to make these decisions that should not put at risk their choices and their family life or their choices at work.
This project was published on Jan. 28, 2020.