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.
By: Josephine Kalipeni
To survive and thrive in this country, most of us must work. In fact, over 60% of people in America are working. But the inability of policies to shift to meet the new needs of workers who are trying to meet caregiving demands is making life and work nearly impossible. Between cutting back on hours, calling off from work, turning down promotions, or being unable to work because of caregiving, many are feeling squeezed between making life happen with low to no wages and keeping a job.
Throughout history social and political forces, driven by colonization, sexism and racism, resulted in the devaluation of caregiving work. This devaluation was acceptable because care work was initially done by enslaved Black women. The impact of caregiving on workers is a silent driver of multigenerational poverty. Yet, women have devoted their lives willingly to caring for loved ones, while earning lower wages to care for others.
For some of us, care is a duty, a responsibility, and a labor of love we perform for family and friends we deeply care about. For us, care is love. But love has not been enough.
State and federal legislatures got us into this by failing to create an equitable care infrastructure; they must get us out. The Family Values at Work Network has invested 20 years of coalition building to win a new care infrastructure for all of today’s workers and families. To do this, we have to engage our federal, state and local leaders to promote policies that respond to the needs of families. Family supportive policies include increased wages, affordable childcare, and paid leave that make work actually work. Our voices and our vote are the way we change our futures and the nature of work.
By: Jennifer Morales
Director of Movement Learning and Culture Change
This is My Family & Family Values@Work
By: Shoshana Hershkowitz
Statewide Organizer for Education and Childcare
Citizen Action of New York
Citizen Action of New York is invested in the fight for universal child care in our state! The child care system is broken, and it’s past time to fix it for working families and caregivers.
We are proud to be members of the Empire State Campaign for Child Care, as well as the Family Values at Work network, advocating to invest in our care economy. When we invest in our care economy, everyone wins.
We’ve made child care a front and center issue in our state legislature. We’ve advocated for policies that raise child care providers’ wages, simplify the process for parents, and expand subsidies for thousands of New York families. We believe that every child, regardless of immigration status, deserves high quality, affordable child care.
Our child care providers are the workforce behind the workforce, and we were proud to take part in the national Day Without Child Care rally in New York City with our partners. We won’t stop until they are paid a thriving wage!
We advocate for these changes at the state and federal level. We were so happy to take part in Family Values at Work’s Lobby Days in May. We spoke to staffers from the New York delegation. A real highlight was meeting Representatives Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib!
We know it’s a long road ahead to get what we truly deserve in our care economy. But we’re not stopping until everyone gets the care they need, at a cost they can afford.
The Right to Organize: A Measure of our Democracy
by Carol Joyner
Sanchioni Butler remembers trying to unionize workers four years ago at a Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, as a union rep for the UAW. After Nissan engaged in a massive union-busting effort, the union lost the vote. Butler is now one of millions of Americans who are supporting the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, legislation that recently passed out of the House of Representatives––with 5 Republicans joining in support––that would clear some big hurdles for private sector workers to stand with their co-workers and vote for union representation. She believes having the PRO Act in 2017 would have resulted in a different outcome for the union election.
“We would have leveled the playing field,” Butler said. “There was real worker intimidation. People were routinely called into ‘captive audience’ meetings. Managers, the front line bullies, scared workers with threats that the plant will close, or we’ll know how you voted. Under the PRO Act, such activity will now be illegal, creating a clear pathway for workers to make a good decision about their work life. This is especially true for most workers of color who will only get access to the American dream if they have a contract and can bargain in good faith.”
Like voting, the right to join a union and bargain in good faith should be a tenet of our democracy. Joining together and negotiating for better benefits and pay has long been the road to economic security––and the path to the middle class––for millions of Americans. However, union density, the percentage of workers carrying a union card, has eroded from 34 percent in the early 1970s to just 10 percent today and even lower across the private sector. When polled, the majority of workers want to join unions, but the task is very difficult and remains out of reach for most, especially in so-called “right to work” (RTW) states. The concerted attack on union activity and collective bargaining by employers, and interference by some elected officials who do their bidding, result in even greater challenges for those who want to form a union.
The ability to negotiate the terms of employment is often associated with the “Union Advantage.” It is well documented that union workers generally fare better economically than their non-union counterparts. Organized workers receive higher wages across the board than non-union employees, with even greater increases for Black, Latinx and women workers. They are more likely to have access to a guaranteed pension plan (70%) than non-union workers (13%); job-provided healthcare plans (75% compared to 48%); paid sick days (93% compared to 73%) and a host of other advantages: predictable schedules, vacation pay, and better workplace safety conditions. Many union members especially welcome the protection against arbitrary firings.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the differences between union and non-union workers. Union workers were able to negotiate protective equipment, safer workplaces and greater economic resources. And union power extends beyond the workplace and impacts the economic stability of the state and geographic region as well. Wages are lower in RTW states and workers are less likely to have access to employer-provided benefits, pay equity and paid time off, impacting the overall quality of life.
If passed, the PRO Act would address many of the challenges workers face in joining a union. It would prohibit employer interference and influence in union elections, including employer-sponsored mandatory meetings, and would permit union elections to be held in locations other than company property. It would prohibit employers from retaliating or discriminating against workers who participate in union strikes, and provide “whistleblower” protections for employees, including managers who expose unfair practices, labor violations and engage in other protected activities. The Act would also establish penalties for companies and their executives that violate workers’ rights to join a union or the NLRB orders.
Similar protections for all public sector employees would come from a separate bill, the Public Sector Freedom to Negotiate Act, which will soon be introduced in the House.
The PRO Act may be too late for the Nissan workers in Mississippi, but many others across the country are voting for union representation and require laws that counter anti-union forces. The vote for representation led by RWDSU in Bessemer, Alabama, amid employer intimidation by Amazon is a clear example. As the pandemic continues to lay bare the interdependent nature of our lives, unions will be a critical component of this nation’s recovery. Our nation is only as healthy as those facing the greatest threats––the essential and front line workers keeping our nation running. Support the PRO Act and give us all a fighting chance for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
By: Carol Joyner
As elected officials debate where to spend and where to cut in the Build Back Better plan, it is important to remember that there is a real human cost already being paid for because of the lack of these investments.(more…)