a father reading bedtime stories to his two daughters.
By: Diane Painter

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.