Our nation stands at a crossroads, one in which we must decide whether to acknowledge that caregiving is essential or continue to make people choose between caring for loved ones and keeping a roof over their heads. The global pandemic showed us how essential the caregiving economy is, and organizers across the country are mobilizing to enact policies that reflect the reality our communities continue to live through with COVID-19. Paid family and medical leave is essential not just for the wellbeing of our communities, but also as a key element of a sustainable economic recovery.
Today we are featuring the work of two 2021 Communications Institute fellows who are on the frontlines of making sure that caregiving is supported by lawmakers in statehouses and Washington D.C.
Michiganders Roadmap for Paid Leave
Michigan has been in the midst of a heated legal battle to try and restore paid family and medical leave. After organizers gathered 400,000 signatures to introduce a ballot measure to the 2018 elections, legislators and the governor passed a significantly watered-down version of the bill that pulled the original proposal from the ballot. Since that time, organizers have fought in the courts to restore the bill to its original form. Aisha Wells, Paid Family Leave organizer for Mothering Justice is working with organizers across the state to press Attorney General Dana Nessel to reverse the mistakes of the previous attorney general and reinstate the original paid family and medical leave law. At the time it was struck from the ballot, roughly 70% of Michiganders resoundingly supported the original proposal. You can read more about Aisha’s story in her op-ed. Aisha was also recently featured in an in-depth piece by Refinery 29, titled “The Pandemic Exposed The Lie Of Women’s Equality. Where Do We Go From Here?”
The Search for a National Solution on Paid Leave
The struggle to enact a caregiving economy, one that puts caregiving at the center of our economy, is occurring in states across the country. Building on this momentum, groups such as Family Values @ Work are mobilizing in DC to enshrine a federal policy that could raise the national standard of caregiving. Josephine Kalipeni, Deputy Director of Family Values @ Work, is fighting for the value of caregiving through the #CareCantWait campaign. The campaign spotlights how the lack of support for caregiving at a national level has created an economy that puts the “bottom line” above the wellbeing of families. Josie and the coalition of people advocating for leave understand that they are facing a narrative battle. In order to help shift the conversation, Family Values @ Work developed a documentary short with award-winning director Ky Dickens that includes TikTok influencers talking about what caregiving means in their lives. You can watch the trailer here.
Many of us know people who take care of loved ones or are caregivers ourselves. It is time that we support the policies that help make the caregiving economy a reality. It is time the wellbeing of our communities is put on the same level as the wellbeing of our economy. Josie and Aisha have stepped up, just like other organizers across the country, to help actualize that vision and move the dial on public support for a caregiving economy. Join us in amplifying their message to help drive the conversation forward on expanding Paid Leave for All.