Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Moms Rising for all moms (and the Healthy Families Act)

I recommend that all moms acquaint themselves with the grassroots advocacy organization Moms Rising, which is working to bring (and I’m quoting the group directly) "important motherhood and family issues to the forefront of the country’s awareness.”

The organization is currently leading the call for
paid sick days legislation (some 40 percent of private sector workers don’t have a single paid sick day) as well as paid family and medical leave. Thanks in large part to the efforts of Moms Rising, paid family leave passed in New Jersey and Washington state.

We all get sick, and as Moms Rising points out, a time will likely come in each of our lives when we’ll be required to look after someone we love. But American families have no protections from the economic hardships that can come with having to care for a new child or a sick family member. In fact, in the U.S., having a baby is a leading cause of "poverty spells,” which are defined as a time when a family’s income slips below what's needed for food and rent. Roughly 1 in 4 families with children under age six live in poverty. Half of new mothers lack any paid leave.

Many (but hardly all) Americans do have access to unpaid family and medical leave, thanks to legislation signed by President Bill Clinton. But being able to take that federally protected unpaid leave of up to 12 weeks is only doable for those able to afford living without a paycheck—or two paychecks, since an ill person often loses his or her income due to being unable to work. (Not all workers are covered by disability insurance, and even those who are need to jump through hoops and wait out long elimination periods before any payments kick in.)

Visit momsrising.org to learn more about these and other mom- and family-related issues. You can help lobby political leaders, and make your views known, by signing up to receive Moms Rising email alerts. The group also has a page on Facebook.

P.S. Just got an email today (June 10, 2009) that hearings will take place in Congress tomorrow for the Healthy Families Act. Another interesting point from Moms Rising: During the swine flu scare this spring, workers were told to stay home, and keep their children home from school, if they were feeling ill.
But there are currently no laws guaranteeing workers the right to earn paid sick days. To make matters worse, reports Moms Rising: "The very industries where you would expect paid sick days to be required (to protect public health), like home health care providers, child care workers, and folks who work in restaurants and hotels, are the least
likely to have them."

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