More than 41 million workers in the United States do not have access to paid sick days, according to a recent study from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. This was one of many key issues discussed this spring during a series of forums hosted by the Department of Labor as part of a national conversation on working families.
Other pressing and persistent challenges raised during the regional forums included affordable and quality child care, maternity leave, workplace flexibility, as well as an emerging and − in some cases − dire need to address how outdated models of work structure and culture act as barriers to success and economic security for millions of working people in America.
In cities across the nation, we were joined by White House officials and special guests from the Center for American Progress in hosting discussions with lawmakers, business leaders, workers, researchers and advocates on how working families can benefit from new and proposed policies. In New York, for example, we learned about New York City’s new Paid Sick Leave Law. And in San Francisco, we heard about California’s 10-year running Paid Family Leave program and San Francisco’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance.
The conversations have focused on proven, practical solutions that work for both workers and employers. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, who delivered keynote remarks in New York and in San Francisco, said, “It’s a false choice that we either grow our economy or we help our families. We can do both.”
From Seattle to Boston, our aim has been to lift up voices across the country on how we can do just that.
In Denver, we heard from Kim Jordan, co-founder and CEO of New Belgium Brewery, who talked about the importance of enabling her employees to balance work and family. In Chicago, Sana Ahmed of the Women in Science and Engineering program at the University of Illinois in Chicago told us about the need to involve young women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
In New York City we heard the story of Jason, who talked about how New Jersey’s Family Leave Insurance program enabled him and his wife to focus on caring for their two and 1/2 month premature twins without the added worry of losing income. We also heard from Tony, who owns Sandkamp Woodworks in Jersey City, who explained the ways that offering paid leave to his employees is good for his business. We also asked people to share their thoughts at the microphones and on our story walls.
Now we want to hear from you. In one week, the White House, the Center for American Progress and the Department of Labor are hosting the first national White House Summit on Working Families in Washington, and we want to make sure Sana’s, Jason’s, Tony’s, Kim’s and your story are part of the conversation.
What has it been like trying to work and raise a family at the same time? How would you like to see workplaces shape up for the next generation of families? Tell us here.
Latifa Lyles is the director of the Women’s Bureau.