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The Coalition’s Next Big Step

For the Children & Families Program at Next Generation it’s the end of an era, but the beginning of a new one too. As Ann O’Leary and Matt James described recently, Too Small to Fail and the policy team are moving on to The Opportunity Institute. More on The Opportunity Institute and our continuing work there coming soon.

And as part of these transitions, there is another big change to announce: the next chapter for the California Work & Family Coalition.

The Coalition is a network of workers’ rights organizations, non-profits and unions that have worked tirelessly to advance policies that protect workers and help working parents meet the needs of their jobs and families.

The Coalition formed more than 10 years ago as part of the successful push to make California the first state in the nation to pass worker-funded Paid Family Leave, a program that has helped more than 1.5 million families. Two years ago the Coalition moved from its original home at the Labor Project for Working Families and came to reside at Next Generation. In that time the Coalition has helped win some major victories, including the passage of the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act that ensures access to paid sick days for more than 6.5 million working Californians. Next Generation has been proud to house the Coalition and support its work.

Now the Coalition is pursuing a path of becoming its own freestanding organization. Going forward, Jenya Cassidy will continue to direct the work of the Coalition. She will work closely with members and partners, including those of us who will be moving over to The Opportunity Institute in August.

I’ve learned a tremendous amount during my time working down the hall from Jenya and with the members of the Coalition. From the moment I met her, I knew Jenya was a force to be reckoned with. She is a powerful ally, a loyal friend, a devoted mom, and a fighter. Those qualities – all of them – make her the heart and soul of the Coalition, and its leader.

From many of the members of the Coalition, I’ve learned about the power of coalitions, and about the strength of individual stories and of dedicated people working towards a central goal. Netsy Firestein, was one of the founders of the Coalition, and has made her mark on the surface of the earth through her enduring focus and tenacity. I learn so much from her every time I get a chance to see her, and I am always grateful for her guidance. Mary Ignatius uses her big smile, warmth and down-to-earth attitude to teach people about what parents need from the early childhood education system. Genevieve Colvin can convince anyone of anything. Jess Bartholow is a force and a hero, and I dare anyone to stand in her way. Sharon Terman and Julia Parish charm you with their kindness, and then dazzle you with their sharp intelligence and insistence on what is right. There are dozens of others I’ve met and been inspired by, and I look forward to continuing to work with them.

The Coalition is a collection of an amazing group of thinkers, advocates, doers and speakers. I’m honored to work with them to crystalize the issues, to shine a spotlight on how public policies affect families, and to better understand the short and long-term effects of changes to programs. I  am confident that the Coalition will continue to fight battles for workers with families -  and win them.

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