INTERNATIONAL NEWS: Women's groups kick off effort against Chao'scuts

WASHINGTON: A number of women's advocacy groups have banded

together to prevent the Bush administration from eliminating regional

offices of the Labor Department's Women's Bureau, a move allegedly being

considered by the Office of Management and Budget.

Secretary of labor Elaine Chao is the focal point of the campaign. The

strategy is to apply pressure to Chao not just from the groups

themselves, but through members of Congress and the public.

Five main groups - Women Employed, Wider Opportunities for Women, the

American Association of University Women, the National Women's Law

Center, and the National Partnership for Women & Families - are

spearheading the drive, sending letters to Congress and imploring the

media to pay attention to the topic. They also sent a joint letter to

Chao recently, imploring her to reverse the administration's "disturbing

pattern of slighting women's concerns."

Last year, the Bush administration eliminated the Labor Department's

"Equal Pay Matters" initiative, and the White House Office for Women's

Initiative and Outreach.

The campaign has already met with what it considers a major success.

Rep. Rosa De-Lauro (D-CT), message chief for the Democratic party, sent

a letter signed by 69 House members to Chao earlier this month,

regarding the issue. DeLauro credited the women's groups for encouraging

her to speak up.

Melissa Joseph, senior policy associate at Women Employed, said that her

group has received no feedback from Chao or her department. A statement

released by Chao's spokeswoman, Sue Hensley, stated that "the secretary

is very much committed to the Women's Bureau."

Created in 1920, the bureau offers assistance to women in such areas as

sexual harassment and child care.

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