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Paid Family Leave Benefits All Families

As long as I can remember, my grandmother was there for me.  She offered bribes to get me to give up my baby blanket, attended every school play, celebrated with me when I graduated from college, and even flew across the state at age 75 to help me after my first child was born. When she ended up in the hospital after a bad fall at 91, I wanted to be there for her too.

Her fall turned out to be the beginning of multiple hospital stays and long term care until she died last year at 93. Thanks to a flexible work schedule, I was able to spend a lot of time with her in the last two years of her life. I’ll always be thankful for this. 

I was lucky. I had an employer who recognized how importantant family time was. Unfortunately, many workers are not this lucky and have to make tough choices between their paycheck and caring for a loved one.

But now, thanks to a growing coalition of advocates in California, we are expanding the rights of all workers to be there when our families need us most.

Last year, Californians celebrated a big win for families. Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill (SB 770) that will extend the state’s Paid Family Leave to cover workers who care for grandparents, grandchildren, parents-in-law, and siblings. 

California’s Paid Family Leave law – the first in the country – provides California workers with up to six weeks of partial pay to care for a seriously ill child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, or to bond with a new child.

Now, caregivers from diverse family situations will benefit from the law -  no small victory given that California has the second highest rate of multigenerational families in the country.

And, with an aging population and one of the highest rates of poverty in the nation, extending paid leave to more caregivers is crucial to working families in our state. 

In fact, a report from the Urban Institute shows that growing family economic instability has a negative effect on parents’ health and child development. A family crisis resulting in the need to take time off work can be devastating to an already precarious financial situation. This is why it’s key to make these new laws accessible to more families in need. 

In California, we’ve seen the positive impact Paid Family Leave has had on the well-being of families. That’s why I’m proud to be part of a growing state and national movement winning paid family leave and paid sick days for all workers.

Our success in expanding Paid Family Leave to more caregivers in California was a huge step toward economic security for more working families. And, with a growing number of cities passing paid sick days legislation, we are building a sustained movement across the country.

This year, there is even momentum at the federal level to pass the Family Medical Leave Insurance bill (the FAMILY Act) that would cover leave for more working families than ever before.

These efforts are about the caring family relationships we are able to foster and protect through our public laws. Being with my grandmother when her health was failing was one of the most important things I’ve done. No worker in a similar situation should have to think twice about what choice they would make.

That’s what this movement is all about.    

Jenya Cassidy is the Director of the California Work & Family Coalition, a project of Next Generation. This was featured in the Family Values at Work blog carnival on the FMLA 21st anniversary. You can read all the posts here.

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