Racism, classism and misogyny work together to hold our communities back. When we work together for policy solutions like paid family and medical leave, childcare, healthcare and more, we can create a system that ensures none of our community is falling, or being pushed through the cracks.
I am a mother who sat next to her son in a hospital bed for 12 days due to an unknown illness. The doctor told him that full recovery meant taking off from work for at least a year to improve his heart rate. He did not have paid leave; he could have become homeless. I also knew a young mother who died from COVID-19 because she continued to work to put food on the table – her children are now motherless. I fight because no one should have to go through this in the richest nation in the world.
I do this work because I am a mama of a disabled teenager, because I am a caregiver. My self advocacy started because I was a young, black, single mother navigating the healthcare and employment system that didn’t offer time off to care for my son.
I do this work because I’m passionate about organizing and mobilizing so others aren’t affected by the same systemic blockage I’ve fought to overcome; it’s personal for me. I fight so hard so that single moms from Detroit and other black and brown neighborhoods, who have children with disabilities, know there are laws, policies and people who work tirelessly to support their loved ones.
In 2015 and 2016, I was part of a team of folks with the Coalition for Social Justice and Raise Up Massachusetts who collectively gathered more than 130K signatures for our Paid Family Leave ballot measure. I was just a volunteer back then, and spent hours in front of grocery stores and at public events circulating petitions. I cared about paid leave but never knew I would actually need it. Until I did.
In early 2017 my 78 year-old dad got severely sick and I had to fly from MA to ID (2500 miles) to care for him with no idea how long I’d be gone. I didn’t have paid sick time because of my employment status, and paid leave hadn’t been passed yet. Most of my savings went to pay for the one-way plane ticket.
While caring for him, I was scared I wouldn’t have enough money for the plane ticket home, and even started planning which of my friends I’d have to call and ask to clean out my apartment if I couldn’t pay my rent. When I did get home, I had to take a third job to make up for the bills and debt I’d accumulated while I cared for him. Massachusetts passed paid leave and I’m glad that I fought for it but my sisters in ID don’t have this state policy so it’s all really personal.
This is why I’m excited that we are seeing momentum in paid leave on a federal level because no one should be punished for caring for a loved one, for doing the right thing.
In 2014 my husband and I quit our jobs in Indiana and moved to Michigan to care for his mother, who was struggling with diabetes and needed 24-hour care for a few months. . If we’d had access to paid family and medical leave at the time, we might have been able to provide care without leaving our homes or jobs. Three years later, she was diagnosed with cancer and she came to live with us in Connecticut, and we continued to care for her in our home.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, I was pregnant for the first time. Shortly after learning, I was pregnant, I was furloughed for about a year. When our baby came, my husband was able to take six weeks of paid family and medical leave. But after that, he was required to work in-person half of the time. We didn’t feel comfortable with the level of COVID exposure that was inevitable. We had the care of our newborn and his immuno-compromised mother, but we did what we had to do to keep his job. And he went back to work.
My family has needed comprehensive paid family and medical leave over the years. We need quality, affordable childcare for our daughter right now. As a result, these issues have brought me to action. I volunteered for a local organization fighting for care, worked to get Paid Family and Medical Leave passed in Connecticut and continued to educate voters and support candidates who will ensure that everyone has the freedom to care – I had no choice but to turn my care story into action.
By: Carol Joyner
Family Values @ Work Action
June 24th marks the one year anniversary of the Supreme Court decision to end Roe v. Wade. So far, 30 states have banned or severely restricted access to abortion. The ban’s effect on maternal health and family economic stability has sent shock waves through the political and electoral landscape. One year after Dobbs it is clear that abortion is self-care, healthcare, and family care.
Self-care is “the ability of individuals, families and communities to promote health, prevent disease, maintain health, and cope with illness and disability with or without the support of a health-care provider”. Reproductive choice is essential for individuals to plan their lives, pursue educational or career goals and maintain their general well-being.
Safe and legal abortion services are crucial, especially for protecting the lives of people who may face serious risks or complications during pregnancy. A relationship between abortion restrictions and maternal mortalities is emerging. For example, South Carolina had the highest number of abortion restrictions (14) and a 300% increase in maternal mortality. Restricting abortion rights further will only worsen outcomes. The dangerous convergence of abortion bans, unaffordable healthcare, and racial health disparities threaten the lives of Black women particularly who are three times more likely to die in childbirth than their white counterparts.
Family care is essential, yet the U.S. lacks comprehensive support. Only about 23% of U.S. employers offer paid family leave and 42% offer medical leave. Policies like the Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) don’t fill the gap because it excludes nearly half the population and is unpaid. Currently,12 states and DC have either enacted or implemented paid leave laws, and 18 states have paid sick and safe days laws. Most of these states have maintained the right to abortion in state law.
The political stagnation to expand paid leave amidst the limiting of abortion care has been surreal. Abortion opponents have sought to restrict paid time off for fear that it will permit women the time to travel for abortion care. Other opponents of abortion rights claim that states should pass family care policies in order to demonstrate support for women. Neither approach has gotten much traction as none of the 30 states with abortion bans or restrictions have enacted a paid leave law. One minor exception is North Carolina, where the state legislature included a very limited parental leave law (for state employees only) in their 12 week abortion ban override from the Governor’s veto. Some believe this cynical tactic was included to counter predictable electoral fall out by suburban women voters.
How we talk about abortion matters. Abortion is self-care, health care and family care.
By: Melanie Campbell
President and CEO
National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and Convener of BWR
Audre Lorde once said, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” These words resonate deeply within me and emphasize the urgent need to address the care crisis that disproportionately impacts black women and families
Black women. We are the backbone of our communities, fulfilling roles as caregivers, workers, teachers, advocates, civic leaders, entrepreneurs and more. However, we also face unique challenges, shouldering the burden of the care crisis. The data reveals the disparities: black women are more likely to be single mothers, work in low-wage jobs without paid leave, and struggle to access affordable childcare.
To create meaningful change, we must invest in a robust care infrastructure with accessible and affordable childcare and eldercare. Enacting a comprehensive paid family and medical leave policies is crucial, ensuring all workers can support their loved ones without risking job loss or financial instability.
Raising awareness about the challenges Black women face in the care economy is an imperative. We must amplify our voices, demanding change from elected officials who must be held accountable for enacting policies that uplift black women and their families, fostering equality and improving lives.
The undeniable contributions of black women as caregivers and civic participants cannot be overlooked. They represent 25% of all caregivers in the United States while comprising only 15% of the population. Black women play vital roles in caregiving occupations, and exhibit higher levels of civic engagement through voting and volunteering.
These statistics reveal the strength and resilience of Black women. We are not just victims but catalysts for change. Recognizing their contributions and advocating for their rights will dismantle barriers and create a society where all individuals thrive.
I urge you to join the fight for justice and equality. Let us invest in the care economy, empower Black women, and demand policies supporting their well-being. Together, we can break the shackles of inequality, forging a future where every woman is truly free.
By: Deborah Scott
Chief Executive Office
We Vote. We Win
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed significant disparities in healthcare access and outcomes, particularly affecting minority populations. Georgia has failed to meet the needs of a rapidly aging population. In 2020, only 7 caregivers were available for every 100,000 Georgia residents. Georgia has also failed to enact policies that would allow caregivers to support their families such as paid family and medical leave.
In response to this urgent issue, We Vote. We Win. launched a transformative campaign called Pledge Care. This initiative made an astounding impact by mobilizing thousands of individuals through phone calls, texts, and in-person events to support caregiving policies. Through the efforts of our determined team and volunteers, we called voters and secured 714 verbal commitments to support progressive care policies.
Recognizing the power of diverse outreach methods, We Vote. We Win.’s phone banking team also sent out 18,000 texts to educate and mobilize voters. These personalized messages ensured that the call for caregiving support reached a broader audience, amplifying the impact of the campaign. Furthermore, during in-person events, We Vote. We Win. collected 750 pledge cards.
We Vote. We Win.’s Pledge Care campaign has been a powerful force in advancing healthcare and family care equity in Georgia; however, there is more work to be done.
Moving forward, let us continue to support progressive care policies. By collectively advocating for caregivers and promoting policies that address healthcare disparities, we can create a future where healthcare is accessible and equitable for all. Together, we can make a lasting impact and secure a healthier and more inclusive society.
By: Yadira Sanchez
Three years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for paid leave is clear as day. Especially for the Latinx community, many members of whom served on the frontlines during the pandemic. At this time we saw many employers increasing the paid leave benefits allotted to their employees or expanding existing benefits, usually temporarily. As time has allowed for a better understanding of the virus, people are growing more comfortable with less protection.
But the reality is that people are still getting sick – and rolling back paid family and medical leave benefits will only harm the most vulnerable in our society – those who were on the frontlines of the pandemic when it started – immigrants, low-wage workers, and women of color. Whether it is to take care of a loved one or themselves, these workers will often work through their illnesses, if they do not have access to paid family and medical leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (1993) only covers unpaid leave, and missing out on even a fraction of a paycheck is just not an option for many families right now with high costs.
We need workers to have a fighting chance and be able to take care of themselves and loved ones – we need paid family and medical leave across the nation for all workers, now. This fight started long before the pandemic and it will continue long after, but the pandemic made these issues so clear for many who are not usually impacted. That’s why Poder Latinx is forging strong local paid leave coalitions in Arizona, Florida, and Georgia – to bring together Latinx workers of all walks of life, build strong local champions, and get them engaged in the fight for paid leave for all.
Having access to life-changing benefits like paid family and medical leave is the new American Dream in a pandemic-ridden world.
By: Dawn Huckelbridge
Paid Leave for All
Paid Leave for All started as an idea in Carol Joyner’s living room years ago — and since then has grown to a campaign of dozens of organizations, representing millions of parents, caregivers, survivors, military families, small business owners, and voters. It also grew an action arm in 2020, with the belief that with more political muscle we will get this policy over the finish line. Paid Leave for All Action has done polling across the country, run digital ad programs and cable ads, held rallies and virtual events, and supported partner organizations in the field. In a period of just a few months in our first year alone our partners spoke with more than 300,000 people directly on the phones and at the doors, sent nearly 1 million texts, and hosted more than two dozen virtual events and 60 in-person mutual aid events.
So what have we learned since our launch?
What we have found, as we expected, is that paid leave is politically powerful — with a lot of potential. Paid leave remains a politically salient issue that uniquely motivates progressive base voters and key persuadable groups. Polling, particularly among suburban and independent women, is at an all time high — in one battleground state, nearly 90% of voters supported universal paid family and medical leave. Our digital ad testing reinforces that paid leave appeals to people from all walks of life, voters in all parties. What we also have found is that candidates who focused on paid leave won. And finally, yes, we see enormous potential that needs to be tapped into. Why haven’t more donors given c4 dollars, why haven’t more candidates already run on paid leave?
It might have to do with who controls newsrooms and campaigns, and dollars. We hired a data and culture firm to do a social media analysis tracking what voters were talking about in the month before the election last year. In that month, we saw a 670% increase in news media mentions of paid leave. But even more significantly, we saw a 1700% uptick in conversations on paid leave on social media — reinforcing our instincts that although improving, the male dominated newsrooms and consultant classes may not cover paid leave like a top political priority relative to the levels of interest and support among “real people” and voters. Similar to abortion, the pundits and commentators are having a different conversation than the voters, and missing that for many voters, paid leave and care are all pocketbook issues, central to our lives and livelihoods — and a lot more expensive than gas or milk.
So we’re taking action. And even in the last few months, we’ve seen a shift. With our partners we plan to double down this cycle, shape media narratives and political influencers early, target more states and districts, and ensure every candidate and voter has heard about the urgency of paid leave. We hope you’ll join us — we plan to win.