The We Won’t Wait campaign is a building a multiracial movement to unify women, communities of color, and working people from across the country. The Washington Work and Family Coalition participated in this amazing and inspiring event last month.
There is an endless amount of advice given to working mothers about “how to have it all” with ‘all’ meaning happy kid, successful careers, great hair, healthy diets, immaculate wardrobes, the perfect beach body, good girlfriends, a supportive husband and a pristine house.
But what if we applied the same type of inane language we use when discussing women in the workplace to men?
This parody Twitter account Manwhohasitall is generating some buzz at the moment for its genius lampooning of the expectations placed on working mothers by imagining if men were subject to the same.
Terri did everything right. She and her husband raised three great children – now mostly grown. She was a loyal employee for 14 years and prepared for the future, buying into the short term disability plan her company offered and investing in a 401(k). She even decided it was time to get healthy and lost 30 lbs.
When her cancer diagnosis came, she had family support, a financial cushion, and the legal protection of the FMLA. But none of that proved quite enough to last through two years of treatment and three surgeries. Despite her years of hard work and responsible actions, one bout of seriously bad luck has left Terri worried about her family’s future.
In September 2013, after speaking with some co-workers, Terri became suspicious of symptoms she’d been having. She visited the doctor and after two biopsies learned she had cancer in both breasts. In October, Terri had a lumpectomy and eventually a double mastectomy. In total, Terri has needed to take 3 separate medical leaves from work to deal with her cancer
“It was the worst experience of my life” said Terri.
Terri has worked for a major retailer in Tacoma for 14 years. She felt lucky to have her job protected through the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act which covers employees in companies with 50 or more employees, who have worked with the same employer at least a year and for enough hours. She had also purchased short term disability insurance. This meant she would have some income to keep her family afloat while she recovered from surgery and have a job to go back to after the ordeal.
But disability insurance did not fully cover her wages—and it left her particularly short when she had to go back for a 2nd surgery. Coordinating all the paperwork with her medical team, HR department, and the separate disability plan provider also proved complicated. It never seemed like they were on her side.
“It was such a hassle that I didn’t need. I kept getting certified letters from the HR department saying they had not received the doctor’s letters… I’m the face of their company, I don’t call in sick unless I have a legitimate reason. I should be rewarded for being a decent employee.”
To add more stress, her health insurance did not fully cover medical expenses and bills began to pile up. With limited options, Terri decided to tap into her 401K. Despite spending most of her retirement savings, she still has unpaid medical bills that keep her and her family underwater. Even her strong family started feeling shaky. “Money problems are hard on a marriage” Terri says.
If Washington had enacted and funded family and medical leave insurance (HB 1273),Terri would have had stable income throughout her cancer treatments – without nearly exhausting her retirement account. Her husband could have taken leave to help care for her. She would have had less stress, meaning faster healing, better morale when she returned to work, and less strain on her family.
Terri’s story could be anyone’s experience. That’s why we all need family and medical leave insurance.
2. Family and Medical Leave Insurance funding and expansion which will (finally!) make paid family leave available to Washington workers and their families (HB 1273).
The paid sick days bill has unprecedented support with 43 sponsors, and the family leave insurance bill has similarly strong support — but there’s one thing missing: you!
Both bills are both scheduled for hearings next week — can you come to Olympia to show strong citizen support for either one (or both) of these bills?:
- Paid Sick Days: Monday, January 26, 1:30-3:30 p.m. – Hearing Room B, John L. O’Brien building, Olympia
- Family Leave: Thursday, January 29, 8:00-10:00 a.m. – Hearing Room D, John L. O’Brien building, Olympia
Can you be there? If so, please click here to tell us you’re coming.
If you’re not able to make it, we understand – but there’s still a way you can help: tell us about a time when you or a loved one really needed paid sick days or family leave insurance, but didn’t have it. Or a time when you had leave, and really relied on it to keep yourself or your family healthy.
Legislators are bombarded by facts and figures every day; it’s the personal stories that really resonate with them. Let’s make sure they won’t forget why paid sick days and family leave insurance matter so much to Washington families!
Thank you – hope to see you there!
Evelin testified in front of the Senate Labor Committee about why Family and Medical Leave Insurance is so important:
My dad has been sick since October. My sister and I kept urging him to go to the doctor, but he didn’t want to miss work and pay a lot of doctor’s bills. It finally got so bad that we took him to the emergency room.
The doctor said he had urine backing up into his kidneys, and if he didn’t have the problem taken care of, he would end up on dialysis.
He needs surgery, but he would need to be off work for 6 weeks to recover, and doesn’t have that much sick leave and vacation saved up. He’s worried about how he’ll pay his bills and the extra medical costs, and he’s afraid if he misses too much work, he’ll lose his job…
Read the rest of Evelin’s story here >
This is no “Chicken Little” or “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” situation: Washington families, and families-to-be, need your help today.
What’s going on? In 2007, we came together to pass a paid family leave law so that parents could spend 5 weeks at home after the birth or arrival of a new child. In the tangled way of legislative politics, the implementation of this bill is still being worked out.
But instead of pushing for forward movement, some state legislators in Olympia are trying to go backwards and repeal the law before it can start.
*Tell your Washington State Senators that they should be working for families, not against us. And to vote “NO” on SB 5159:
Why is paid family leave so important?
Paid family leave gives kids a healthier start. It gives families the economic security they need to stay out of poverty at a critical time. It can even benefit businesses bottom line.This saves everyone–from parents to taxpayers to businesses–money in the long-run.
That’s right. Studies show that paid family leave after the birth of a child combats poverty, gives children a healthy start, lowers infant mortality by more than 20% and helps lower the wage gap between women and men. 
Yet, in the United States, only 49% of mothers are able to cobble together paid leave following childbirth by using sick days, vacation days, disability leave, and maternity leave. And 51% of new mothers lack any paid leave — so some take unpaid leave, some quit, some even lose their jobs just when they need them most. No wonder having a baby is a leading cause of “poverty spells” in our nation!
In addition, a number of studies have shown that maternity leave has a positive impact on how long women breastfeed and thus on the long-term health of the child and mother.This is important because major medical authorities recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for their first six months because of significant health benefits for both mother and child.Despite the government’s Healthy People 2010 breastfeeding goals, only 13.6% of U.S. infants are exclusively breastfeeding and only 43% are breastfeeding at all at six months of age. Recently the U.S. Surgeon General called paid family leave policies important for families and babies health linking the ability of new moms to take paid leave to increased rates of breastfeeding.
Paid family leave isn’t just good for families it also benefits employers.A recent study of the California Paid Leave program showed that most employers found that the Paid Family Leave had a positive effect on productivity, profitability/performance, turnover and employee morale. In addition, paid family leave helps level the playing field for many small businesses which wouldn’t normally be able to afford leave since the majority of legislative proposals for paid family are paid for by small employee paycheck deductions and NOT by businesses. It’s a win-win.
Butwhile 177 other countries have some form of paid leave for new moms after the birth of a child,the U.S. isn’t one of them, an omission that sets up our families for failure.
*Don’t forget to take a moment now to tell your Washington StateSenatorsthat they should be working for families, not against us. And to vote “NO” on SB 5159:
*And please forward this email to at least three friends in Washington State who you think might take action too.
Together were a more powerful voice for women and families.
-Kristin, Ruth, Sarah, and the while MomsRising team
P.S.Can you take a moment to share your experiences with family leave(or your experiences with a lack of family leave)? What did you–or your friends or family members–do when a new child arrived? http://action.momsrising.org/why_family_leave_is_important_to_you
 Waldfogel, Jane. Understanding the ‘Family Gap’ in Pay for Women with Children. Journal of Economic Perspectives 12, no. 1 (1998), 137-156
The Seattle Coalition for a Healthy Workforce is collecting stories about paid sick days, and they want to hear from you. Your contribution will help more people understand why paid sick days are so important in today’s workplace.
It’s easy to do, anonymous (if you want) and will only take a couple of minutes — click here to learn more and get started.