Hila Ritter and her husband in Portland, OR, both work-full time. Yet neither job includes any paid leave. So Hila worked while ill during her pregnancy to hold on to her sick days and saved up her vacation days. Still, most of her maternity leave came without pay. For this couple, the joy of a new baby was coupled with depleted savings, debt, and the need to apply for food stamps.
What about those with no paid leave and no savings? Chantia Lewis and her husband and baby in Milwaukee had to move in with her parents. Shelby Ramirez in Denver, who needed a few weeks to care for her daughter and her father after surgeries, received eviction notices and had to pawn the only thing of value she owned. Elizabeth Fredette in Massachusetts worked 12-hour days in her last month of pregnancy instead of the bed rest her doctor ordered, and was back at work within four weeks of giving birth.
These women are advocates of paid family leave—and they’re not alone. A recent poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) in 15 key electoral states found strong support for policies like paid sick days and paid family leave—and a clear connection between that support and the hardship families experience when those policies are not in place. Like Hila, Chantia, Shelby, and Elizabeth, nearly 60 percent of those polled said they would face significant economic hardship if they had to take time without pay to care for a newborn or a seriously ill loved one or to deal with their own major illness.
The only federal law in the U.S. regarding family leave is the 23-year-old Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). It allows for 12 weeks of *unpaid* leave to care for a new child or recover from serious illness and guarantees a person can return their job. But it applies only to businesses with 50+ employees, and to be eligible, workers need a year with a company and 25 hours/week of work. That leaves out 40% of the workforce! Millions of people have to skip treatments or return to their jobs too soon.
It doesn’t have to be this way! Join the Washington Work and Family Coalition as we work to pass Paid Family and Medical Leave for Washington in 2017: http://bit.ly/joinwaworkfam