Groups Unify for Obama Endorsement

NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark was among a group of leaders representing organizations supporting women's rights to announce a unified endorsement of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

A press conference was held at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in September in which Clark was joined by leaders of the National Organization for Women (NOW); the Feminist Majority; Business and Professional Women; and the National Congress of Black Women to highlight the urgency of supporting Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden.

Clark, representing NASW's Political Action for Candidate Election (PACE), said Sen. Obama has made a commitment in his policies to provide support for working families, to strengthen schools, to help American families stay healthy, and to protect homeownership.

"We call on all women, across the country, to look at each candidate's words, messages and policies with a critical eye," Clark said. "We ask that you think about the issues that are important to you - including the economy and equal pay, education and family supports."

Clark pointed out that the majority of the nation's 600,000 social workers are women. "When social workers choose a candidate, we are looking for someone who is seeking equal pay for women, someone who respects the right to self determination in reproductive choice, someone with a sound educational policy and someone who has committed to strong policies that support children and families," she said.

Clark was joined by NOW President Kim Gandy who said the endorsement of a presidential candidate by the largest women's rights organization was a special call to action. "For more than a decade, Barack Obama has said 'yes' to women's rights while [presidential Republican candidate] John McCain has consistently said 'no'," she said.

"Although it is very unusual for us to endorse in a presidential election, this is an unprecedented candidate and an unprecedented time for our country," Gandy said.

The press conference occurred during Obama's "Women's Week of Action" events. Days earlier, NASW's national office was included in a special teleconference call directly with Obama.

The announcement of women's rights groups endorsing the Obama/Biden ticket was broadcast around the world. The Agence-France Presse (AFP) quoted Clark as saying that McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for a running mate was a "failed ploy to win the feminine vote.

"John McCain has chosen a woman for a running mate to lure Democratic voters to the Republican party," the global news agency quoted Clark as saying. "But women are smarter than that . . . Women know they need to cast their votes based on policies set forth by each candidate regardless of gender."

In her address, Clark also talked about the importance of social workers.

"One of the central tenets of our profession is the role of advocating on behalf of individuals, families and communities for real and lasting change," she said. "In fact, the profession's Code of Ethics notes that social workers have a responsibility to expand choice and opportunity for all people and to engage in political action to promote social needs and social justice."

Some of the ways social workers help are by working with the 513,000 children in foster care, Clark explained. "We provide resources and support for the nearly 13 million children living below the poverty line," she added. "We work with families who are struggling in these tough economic times. We advocate for affordable health care for all families."

Clark also said that social work is the profession of hope. "We believe that the best hope for the children and families of this country - in fact, the best hope for America - is Sen. Barack Obama and NASW PACE is proud to endorse his candidacy for president."