Category Archives: Women and Families

DACA Decision Looms during the COVID-19 Pandemic

DACA Decision Looms during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Giovana Oaxaca
May 14, 2020

The Supreme Court’s upcoming decision over whether the President acted unlawfully in 2017 in abruptly terminating Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) hangs over our nation against the backdrop of an unprecedented global pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic introduces a host of new variables to consider, like the devastation of death to COVID-19, job losses, and ensuing economic, housing, and food insecurity being felt across the nation. Financial hardship is already more likely to strike those with limited access to paid sick leave, health care, and safety net programs like low-income people; immigrants; people of color; LGBTQ communities; and incarcerated and detained people. However, since the start of the outbreak, more than 40% of Latinx, and nearly a half of Black adults have said they won’t be able to pay some of their bills, compared to about a third of all Americans.

Yet, in the midst of a pandemic, the Supreme Court is still expected to issue a decision which could lead to a loss of work permits and protections from deportation for an estimated 650,000 DACA recipients living in the United States. The economic and social wellbeing of millions would fall precipitously as 650,000 DACA recipients reckon with the loss of their status and jobs during this time of uncertainty. About 254,000 U.S.-born children have at least one parent who holds DACA and in total, 1.5 million people live with a DACA recipient. Some DACA recipients, like Luz Chavez Gonzalez, have had to step up as sole providers for their families during widespread lay-offs — both of Luz’s parents, and her two siblings have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. The pandemic spotlights Latinx families vulnerability to economic insecurity during emergencies.

Impact of COVID-19 on DACA Recipients and their Families

Nationwide, immigrant are overrepresented in nearly every industry supplying essential jobs and services. An estimated six million immigrant workers, including more than 200,000 DACA recipients, are working to keep U.S supermarkets stocked and residents healthy. Many states extended broad authority for many businesses considered essential to keep operating, but few have done enough to enforce state and federal workplace protections. As a result, thousands are getting sick on the job. Farmworkers, workers in the meat packing industry, and domestic workers who are immigrants have been some of the hardest hit. More and more evidence has emerged that Latinx COVID-19 health disparities stem from systemic inequities. Latinx people are more likely to have low-paying service jobs that require them to work through the pandemic; have limited access to health care; live in close quarters; and as a result, are less likely to call out of work or seek treatment when they fall ill.

This is, in no small part, the consequence of systematic and ongoing efforts to deny workplace protections and services to low-income and people of color based on immigration status. The implementation of the Trump administration’s public charge rule that went into effect on February 24, 2020 is a case in point. Researchers found that the rule would lead to a decline in the health and financial stability because of immigrant families’ fears over how their use of public benefits would affect their adjustment of status petitions. Now, the very worst possible outcomes of excluding immigrants from federal programs are playing out at the worst time.

Despite the pressing need for greater COVID-19 medical attention, immigrants were mostly left out of Congress’ COVID-19 relief packages. Immigrants were also left out of the CARES Act economic impact payments due to language prohibiting payments for households with ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) filers, a detail not gone unnoticed. An Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy analysis found that 4.3 million adults and 3.5 million children were denied this benefit through the ITIN exclusion. Future payments should remedy this exclusion.

For all these destabilizing factors raised, a SCOTUS decision on DACA in favor of the Trump administration would be catastrophic not just for DACA recipients, but the families they provide for and the broader immigrant community in the U.S.

DACA Recipients Urge Sensitivity

On March 27, plaintiffs from one of the three DACA cases up for consideration, Wolf, et al., v. Batalla Vidal, et al, appealed to the Supreme Court that Justices consider the full breadth of consequences stemming from a decision during the pandemic. They also flagged Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Matthew Albence’s alarming threats of imminent deportation: “If they get ordered removed, and DACA is done away with by the Supreme Court, we can actually effectuate those removal orders.” The Supreme Court accepted this filing by plaintiffs and it was entered into the official record in a small victory for DACA recipients.

In the lead up to a decision, a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by immigrant’s rights activist also produced more evidence of a credible fear of DACA recipient’s information being used in immigration enforcement. Namely, the FOIA uncovered edited congressional testimony and a trail of emails showing that ICE had been dishonest about its unobstructed access to DACA information, like addresses and last known filing date. Thus, even as it appears that the country is entering in a protracted recession, DACA recipients now also have to navigate around this landmine decision with possible deportation attached.

Where applicable, DACA recipients are still encouraged to submit renewals. Catholic Legal Immigration Network  (CLINIC) has a stepped up to provide up to date information for DACA recipients needing to renew. Inquiries about whether to renew should always be made to legal practitioners. CLINIC’s legal resources are available here.

Act in Solidarity with Immigrant Communities

This administration has been very blunt about its prejudice against the poor, brown, and Black immigrants, therefore, it very unlikely it will do right by recognizing the contributions of immigrants during the pandemic. It falls our elected representatives to support COVID-19 relief for immigrants and protect DACA recipients through legislation.

The Supreme Court decision could come at any time between now and the end of June. Please sign our petition asking the Senate to pass legislation protecting Dreamers: #Faith4DACA petition. Help us show that justice-seekers support DACA recipients in this time of hardship for them and for the country that we share.

For A Better COVID-19 Relief Plan, Let’s #FundFamilies

For A Better COVID-19 Relief Plan, Let’s #FundFamilies

Ness Perry 
May 12, 2020

On Thursday, May 7, 2020, NETWORK Lobby and our partners Moms Rising, Children’s Defense Fund, First Focus, and The Coalition on Human Needs gathered virtually for a tweet storm encouraging Congress to #FundFamilies. This digital action aimed to ask for increased, consistent cash assistance for families and an expansion of the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Social media is key to putting pressure on Members of Congress while in-person lobbying and hill visits are no longer an option.

NETWORK participated in the #FundFamilies tweetstorm because our faith teaches us to care for people at the margins in our country. Our economic recovery package should support those who need it the most, which is why we call on Congress to provide cash payments to every adult until the pandemic is over. This should be given to households that did not receive prior support from the CARES Act. This includes low- or no-income families that do not file tax returns, and families with ITINs including mixed-immigration status households.

Families need direct aid, as well as credits in the coming tax season. We know that the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit works, therefore we must expand it to provide aid for more families. The Child Tax Credit leaves behind more than 1/3 of children in families who earn too little to get the full credit — including 1/2 of Black and Latinx children. In order to mend the racial wealth and income gap, we must call on Congress to provide relief for all families, especially families of color.

Here are some highlights from the event:

https://twitter.com/RepBarbaraLee/status/1258442973332869124

Dreamers Brace for SCOTUS Decision

Dreamers Brace for SCOTUS Decision

Giovana Oaxaca
March 19, 2020

The executive action known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has withstood a number of legal challenges over the years. In a few months, however, the delicate future of more than 700,000 DACA recipients will face yet another test. Let the Senate know that immigrants are welcome in our nation by signing our petition.

On November 12, 2019, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for the DACA cases that the Supreme Court considered for review in the fall 2019 term. Although there exist legislative solutions, such as the Dream and Promise Act which passed the House and the Dream Act and SECURE Act (introduced in the Senate), Congress has so far failed to pass meaningful protections for undocumented immigrants eligible for deferred action and temporary protected status. This has deferred the DACA matter to court cases, which have put a halt to the Trump administration’s decision to terminate DACA in September 2017. The Supreme Court’s decision will have far-reaching effects by deciding the fate of the program for the near future.

Watch interfaith leaders pray for the protection of immigrants, refugees, and DACA recipients in the #Faith4DACA vigil.

The stakes have never been higher. In a recent survey, over fifty percent of DACA recipients reported that they fear being detained or deported from the United States at least once a day. An even greater share of DACA recipients surveyed reported that they feared being separated from their children. The Supreme Court’s decision will alter the reality for the millions of DACA recipients living and working in the U.S. If the Supreme Court rules with the Trump Administration, this would leave thousands stranded with few recourses, in the very place they call home.

Brief Overview

On September 5, 2017, the Trump administration announced that it was terminating DACA, a decision that was been met with instant legal pushback. More than ten cases were filed challenging the administration’s decision. After a number of judges issued preliminary injunctions protecting the program, the administration appealed to the Supreme Court.  Late last year, the Supreme Court granted the administration’s petition, agreeing to hear arguments for three cases on November 12th, 2019. The Supreme Court’s ruling on the DACA cases and an array of other high-profile cases are expected in June 2020.

Speculated Outcomes

Legal advocates, allies, and organizations are bracing for the court’s ruling.

  • The court may conclude it may review the administration’s decision. It may then rule that the termination is unlawful or lawful. A ruling stating that the action was unlawful would be good for DACA recipients because it would mean that the administration should not have terminated DACA under its reasoning at the time. The court may rule that the administration’s decision was lawful. This would be bad for DACA recipients because it would mean the administration could begin rolling back the program. It is also possible that the court could find DACA itself unlawful at this time. This would mean that the government could stop accepting renewals of applications.
  • The Supreme Court may decide not to review the administration’s decision to terminate. A ruling along these lines would mean that the administration could commence rolling back the program; it could also mean that a future administration could reinstate it.

High-profile businesseshigher education institutions, former national security officials, and religious organizations have joined a litany of amicus briefs in support of DACA recipients. The plight of Dreamers clearly resonates with the majority of Americans. As it stands, an overwhelming majority of Americans support a pathway to citizenship. For now, the decision to stay DACA rests in the hands of the Supreme Court.


Breaking the Silence on Violence Against Women

Breaking the Silence on Violence Against Women

Anne Marie Bonds
December 10, 2019

Thanksgiving is a joyous holiday for many people across the nation; an opportunity to see their loved ones and celebrate together under one roof. For Alabamians, Thanksgiving is just the precursor to the most important weekend of the year: the Iron Bowl. Every Saturday after Thanksgiving, Alabama and Auburn’s football teams play on the field, and the entire state shuts down. Most people either celebrate after their team wins, or they go to bed upset that their team lost bragging rights for an entire year.

Unfortunately for Megan Montgomery, this day would be her last. Megan was taken from a sports bar by her ex-husband and abuser, James McIntosh. Hours later, her body was found in the dumpster behind my high school, only 100 yards away from the home where I’d just celebrated the holiday with my family. She’d been shot multiple times.

For so many women across the country, this story sounds all too familiar. In Alabama, it seems this story is on a continual loop. This horrifying reality has brought the increased instances of violence against women to light in the media. Soon this story will be all but forgotten, leaving only the family and friends of Megan to remember her life that was cut short by her abuser.

This case is just another reminder of how our federal policies around domestic violence do not adequately care for and protect the lives of women. Congress has refused to act on the rising rates of violence against women and children due to the ‘untouchable’ issue of gun control. Therefore, women continue to die in senseless acts of violence and at the hands of their abusers, simply because the politics are too controversial to act.

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives took action and passed H.R. 1585, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. Under this legislation, spouses and family members convicted of domestic abuse are prohibited from purchasing guns, and the legislation would close the “boyfriend loophole” extending the prohibition of buying arms for convicted abusers to former dating partners, not just spouses. The bill will promote and fund trauma-informed training for law enforcement, and expand resources for preventing domestic violence on tribal land. The bill also includes nondiscrimination provisions based on race and sexual orientation, which is impactful because people of color and those in the LGBTQ+ community are much more likely to be abused than their white, straight counterparts.

This necessary and life-saving bill passed the House of Representatives in April of 2019, but the Senate has taken its time considering the bill. Much of the blame falls on Senate Majority Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell, who refuses to let any Democrat-sponsored legislation reach the Senate floor. Also, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst has been outspoken against the gun restrictions of the bill, causing it to be stalled even further. Although the Violence Against Women Act has historically been bipartisan, Senate Republicans are blocking the legislation due to politics.

While I’m sure Senators McConnell and Ernst know a lot more about politics than I do, there is one thing I’m sure of: Megan Montgomery would still be alive today if they had passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. Her abuser would not have been able to get his hands on a gun due to his past domestic assault convictions, and Megan could have spent her weekend with her friends and family like the rest of us.

Time is up Senators, enough lives have been lost. It is time to put the lives of domestic violence victims before your partisan politics. Pass the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act now and end the violence that so many experience at the hands of their abusers.

Understanding VAWA’s Importance for Native Communities

Understanding VAWA’s Importance for Native Communities

Laurel J. Robertson, Odawa Tribal Member
August 26, 2019

For a long time, I was really unaware of the severity of Indigenous missing, murdered, and abused women and girls in the USA and Canada until it hit close to home.

I was aware and appalled, as most are, by the large number of women and girls of all races who are affected by this tragedy. Then, my husband and I were invited to a walk in support of these women and girls on a nearby reservation. Under a canopy, pictures and stories were displayed of a few of the victims, both survivors and murdered. But most disturbing was the fact that most of these cases were unresolved. A short time after that, a friend of ours’ granddaughter was raped, beaten, and killed. Because our friend is a well-known and famous person, the killers were finally apprehended. But for average Indigenous families, the prospect of finalization and justice for their loved ones is not as certain.

So I started to study and read what I could find on the subject. As it stands, almost every Native woman will experience violence: 8 in 10 Native women will be raped, stalked, or abused in the course of a lifetime. Prosecuting these crimes is difficult. The vast majority (96%) of crimes against Native victims are committed by non-Natives. Due to a complex web of federal laws and statutes, tribes have long been unable to prosecute non-Natives who commit their crimes on tribal land.

The 2013 Violence Against Women Act reauthorization changed that — to some extent — by restoring tribal jurisdiction over non-Native perpetrators of domestic violence and dating violence. However, the 2013 bill excluded tribes in Alaska and Maine from this expanded jurisdiction and excludes non-domestic violence related crimes from tribal jurisdiction including child abuse, sex trafficking, rape, or murder.

I can go on with the statistics and numbers, but my emotions start to get involved. Tribal nations must also have the ability to advocate for their citizens living in urban areas. This courtesy is extended to all other sovereign nations. When a citizen is killed while living or traveling outside their nation, the nation is notified of their death and can advocate for their citizen’s case. This basic respect must be afforded to tribal nations. Currently, this is not extended, and rarely is a tribe notified or given access to the data regarding their tribal citizens.

All of these facts and numbers are accessible online from the National Congress of American Indians. The emotion is from the real life stories that have been lived and shared with me over the years.

I hope that drawing attention to the violence will help bring change.

Legislative Update

In April 2019, the House of Representatives passed an expanded Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This VAWA reauthorization legislation would strengthen protections and expand access to justice to even more victims of abuse.

Key provisions of the 2019 House VAWA bill include: increased protections for unmarried victims from dating violence, expanded access to justice for Native victims of all crimes committed by non-Native perpetrators, and finally closing the “boyfriend loophole.” This legal glitch fails to extend for dating partners or former partners the prohibition on the purchase or possession of guns that is enforced for domestic abusers who are (or were) married, living with, or co-parents with the victim of abuse.

Unfortunately, partisan politics in the Senate has stalled further legislative action for this expanded VAWA reauthorization, placing victims in undue danger.

 

Mrs. Laurel J. Robertson is Secretary of the All Nations Veterans Council of Detroit, Treasurer of Turtle Island Dream Keepers of Monroe, Michigan, and a member of the Monroe County Community College Diversity Committee. Her tribal affiliation is Odawa.


This story was originally published in the July 2019 issue of Connection magazine. Read the full issue.

Mending the Gaps Experienced by the LGBTQ+ Community

Mending the Gaps Experienced by the LGBTQ+ Community

Siena Ruggeri
June 7, 2019

NETWORK is proud to have supported the recent passage of the Equality Act in the House, and we urge the Senate to also pass this important legislation. While the Equality Act would extend critical anti-discrimination protections to the LGBTQ+ community in both the workplace and housing, many of NETWORK’s Mend the Gaps other issues have a direct impact on the LGBTQ+ community. As we work to mend the gaps in our nation, it is important to consider the challenges facing the LGBTQ+ community and ways federal policies can reduce those challenges.

Paid family leave, for example, is a significant issue for LGBTQ+ families. Even in areas and workplaces that do offer paid leave, LGBTQ+ families face an extra hurdle to taking the necessary time they need to be with their families. According to a survey by the Human Rights Campaign, 27% of LGBTQ+ people of color and 16% of LGBTQ+ white people say they are afraid to request time off to care for a loved one because it might disclose their LGBTQ identity. 44% of LGBTQ+ people of color are afraid of losing their job if they took paid leave, compared to 37% of their white counterparts.

Paid family leave is already challenging to access for countless families. LGBTQ+ workers have to disclose their gender identity or sexual orientation in order to access paid leave, putting them in a highly vulnerable spot. In our efforts to expand access to paid leave, we must intentionally include all types of families. This is why legislation like the FAMILY Act (H.R.1185) is so important to advance — this policy has a broad definition of family, allowing for all types of families, biological and chosen, to take equal advantage of paid leave.

LGBTQ+ people may also face barriers to healthcare because of discrimination against their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. Just last week, the Trump administration proposed rolling back an Obama-era HHS rule called the Health Care Rights Law, which ensures healthcare providers cannot discriminate on the basis of sex. The rollback of this rule will strip away the protections established by the ACA, which were critical for LGBTQ+ healthcare access.

According to a 2015 report by the Center for American Progress, 23.5% of transgender respondents and 10.3% of LGBT people of color avoided doctors’ offices in the past year due to fear of discrimination. Ensuring affordable, accessible healthcare is an LGBTQ+ issue, and we must consider the unique challenges the community faces as we advocate for greater access to quality, affordable health care.

LGBTQ+ issues also intersect with immigration. Those who identify as lesbian, gay, and bisexual are three times more likely to be incarcerated. As a result, LGBTQ+ migrants are uniquely vulnerable to overpolicing, discrimination, and violence. There has also been an increase in violence towards undocumented LGBTQ+ people. According to the Center for American Progress, 6% of survivors of hate violence were LGBTQ in in 2014, compared to 17% in 2015. While immigrants already face discrimination, those who also identify as LGBTQ+ face even more danger.

The threat of deportation is also a life or death issue for countless LGBTQ+ migrants. 76 countries allow the criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity. This means many of our nation’s refugees seeking asylum are fleeing their home countries based on the threat of violence due to their LGBTQ+ identities. By denying asylum claims and deporting undocumented LGBTQ+ immigrants, our nation is putting their lives at risk. The Trump administration’s attacks on immigrants puts already vulnerable LGBTQ+ immigrants in dangerous, often life-threatening situations.

The experiences of the LGBTQ+ community intersect with each of NETWORK’s Mend the Gaps issues. This Pride Month, we continue to work toward federal policies that bring justice and equality for the LGBTQ+ community in the United States.

Paid Leave Proposals Shouldn’t Slash Social Security

Paid Leave Proposals Shouldn’t Slash Social Security

Siena Ruggeri
May 2, 2019

We are at a rare moment of bipartisan agreement on the importance of paid leave. The Trump administration has expressed support for the idea of paid family leave, and suggests six weeks of paid parental leave in its 2020 budget proposal.  Senators Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney’s New Parents Act (S.920) offers a leave option for new parents. Senators Joni Ernst and Mike Lee have introduced the Child Rearing and Development Leave (CRADLE) Act, a discussion draft that is very similar to the Rubio bill. Finally, Senators Bill Cassidy and Kyrsten Sinema are collaborating on a bipartisan paid leave proposal.

While there is hope in the bipartisan enthusiasm for paid leave, the details of these proposals are highly concerning. We must be diligent in informing our members of Congress what a truly robust paid leave program looks like.

These proposals have a narrow view of what constitutes paid leave. The proposals would only offer leave for parents caring for a new child through birth or adoption. While this type of leave is important, family leave is used for many other reasons. Three out of four workers have a caregiving responsibility, and a lack of paid leave makes it incredibly difficult for them to remain financially secure while providing the care their family members need. If a worker has a child with a disability, an aging parent, or a spouse with a serious illness, they would not be covered under these proposals. Paid leave legislation is not family-friendly unless it addresses all the types of caregiving situations workers live with.

When looking closely at the funding of these proposals, it becomes apparent that the paid leave is not responsibly paid for. Both the New Parents Act and the CRADLE Act are funded by cuts to Social Security. In order to access their “paid leave,” new parents have to borrow from their Social Security benefits. As a result, parents would have to either delay their retirement by half a year or take a 3% overall cut to their lifetime benefits. Working parents already lose an estimated $10,513 in wages for taking 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Instead of addressing this problem, the proposed legislation punishes working parents in a different way by cutting their benefits. Cuts to Social Security are irresponsible and unacceptable.

These legislative proposals ignore how women and people of color, are most impacted by paid leave policies. Of the estimated 43.5 million unpaid caregivers, 60% are women. Among Millennial caregivers, over half are people of color. These populations are taking on the most caregiving responsibilities yet face pay and benefits cuts for doing so. Due to structural barriers in the workplace, 73% of Latinx and 62% of Black workers qualify for FMLA yet cannot afford to take it. These proposals do nothing to remedy these disparities. Instead of addressing the wealth gap, workplace discrimination, and unpaid labor caregivers face, these proposals force them to make more impossible choices between work and family.

We must reach out to the writers of these proposals and emphasize that family-friendly workplace legislation must be comprehensive and responsibly funded. The FAMILY Act provides a self-sustaining family and medical leave fund that includes all types of caregiving. Instead of taking away Social Security benefits, it is funded by a modest payroll tax that costs employees $1.50 a month. If Congress wants to improve workplaces for families, any reform must be universal, inclusive, and responsibly funded.

 

Feature image courtesy of Demos

Family-Friendly Workplaces Are Crucial for Our Nation

Family-Friendly Workplaces Are Crucial for Our Nation

Tralonne Shorter
March 17, 2019

On March 14, NETWORK Senior Government Relations Advocate Tralonne Shorter spoke at a press conference with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Senator Patty Murray, Rep. Lauren Underwood, and Rep. Alma Adams about the introduction of the Healthy Families Act. View photos of the press conference on NETWORK’s Flickr account.

At NETWORK we are working every day for the dignity of the common good: urging elected officials, including the President, to join us on our mission to put people over profits. We not only advocate for social justice on Capitol Hill, but we also are a leading example of family-friendly workplace policies that reflect the current and future nature of families and women in the workforce.

Inspired by Catholic Social Justice, we believe that workplace and labor policies must respect the dignity of every human being, and recognize the needs of every human being to be in community with one another. In our advocacy for family-friendly workplace policies, we have focused on guaranteeing that all workers have access to paid family leave and sick leave, ending the gender and racial wage gap, and encouraging flexible scheduling to give employees and employers more tools and resources to create mutually beneficial schedules.

Current bills coming up in Congress include issues that support national paid family and medical leave insurance programs (Family and Medical Insurance Leave [FAMILY] Act), as well as setting a consistent standard for earning sick days (Healthy Families Act). It is our hope that the successful passage of these bills will enable more workers to access necessary time off that would allow them to care for themselves and their families.

The patchwork of existing workplace policies is not a sufficient safety net for workers and their loved ones. Just 17% of workers in the U.S. have access to paid family leave, and only 40% of workers can take paid personal medical leave.[1] The private sector is making strides in offering family-friendly workplaces, but those protections are not enough on their own and often leave out the lowest-paid workers. The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not provide universal paid leave benefits, making time off inaccessible to lower-wage workers. While 92% of the highest wage earners has access to paid sick leave, only 31% of the lowest earning workers can take paid sick time.[2]

The Healthy Families Act and the FAMILY Act would serve as two major solutions to promoting family-friendly workplaces, and upholding workers’ inherent dignity in allowing paid leave. As people of faith, we value an economy that puts people, not profit, at the center. We know that when the people at the economic margins of our society do better, we all do better.

The Healthy Families Act would set a consistent standard for accruing sick days: workers would earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 56 hours (seven days) per year. Additionally, the act would enable workers in businesses with fifteen or more employees to earn up to seven job-protected, paid sick days each year. These sick days would allow people to recover from illnesses, access preventive care, provide care to a sick family member, or attend school meetings related to a child’s health condition or disability.

The FAMILY Act would provide workers with up to partial income to take time for their own serious health conditions, pregnancy and childbirth recovery, care of a family member, birth or adoption, or military caregiving needs. The act covers all workers—part-time, lower-wage, and self-employed workers are all eligible. All companies are covered, no matter their size; the paid leave would be funded by small employer and employee contributions that amount to 2 cents for every $10 in wages.

The Healthy Families and FAMILY Acts not only contain provisions that would allow workers to earn paid sick days and family leave to care for themselves or an immediate family member, they also include important protections for victims of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. No one should have to worry about losing their job while recovering from the trauma of intimate partner violence or harassment. These laws ensure every worker has access to the time they need to care for themselves and their loved ones.

We know paid sick days work because we’ve seen them implemented in 10 states and 20 cities around the country. Providing family-friendly workplace protections is necessary to build an economy that puts people, not profit at the center. Catholic Social Justice teaches that workplace and labor policies must respect the dignity of every human being, and recognize the needs of every human being to be in community with one another. The right to work must operate in concert with human needs of community – and our government should institute laws to ensure family-friendly workplaces.

Now is the time for Congress to pass the FAMILY Act and the Healthy Families Act, so that every employer can provide a pro-family friendly workplace that reflects the current and future nature of families and women in the workforce.


[1] http://www.nationalpartnership.org/our-work/workplace/paid-leave.html

[2] https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ebs2.pdf

In Order to Call Itself Family-Friendly, the U.S. Must Examine its Workplaces

In Order to Call Itself Family-Friendly, the U.S. Must Examine its Workplaces

Siena Ruggeri
February 5, 2019

February 5th is the anniversary of the Family Medical Leave Act, which was passed in 1993. This law gives employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was a huge step forward for working families, but it still excludes many. The Washington Center for Equitable Growth estimates that half of all working parents and 43 percent of women of childbearing age are excluded from FMLA coverage due to outdated eligibility requirements.[1] Family leave policies need to be updated for 21st century workplaces and include low-wage earners.

Even if a worker qualifies for FMLA coverage, in many cases, they can’t afford to take it. Quite simply, far too many people can’t weather the sudden loss in income, and often fear they will lose their job if they take unpaid leave. Family leave needs to be paid for workers to utilize it, but paid leave remains rare in U.S. workplaces: 93% of low-wage workers have no access to any paid family leave.[2].

In 2019, the United States remains the only industrialized nation that does not provide universal paid leave benefits. After 26 years without landmark paid leave legislation, the time has come to not only offer family leave, but ensure all working families can access it. We need a federal universal paid leave policy to accomplish this goal.

A lack of family-friendly workplaces is bad for both employers and their workers. Employers must deal with the costs associated with high turnover, and employees are forced to choose between advancing their career and caring for family members.

The growing demands of caregiving can’t be ignored by federal policymakers any longer. According to a recent Harvard Business School study, almost three quarters of U.S. workers are caregivers in some capacity. Of those, 80% said that their caregiving responsibility made it harder to do their job. As a result, 32% of all employees surveyed said they left a job to accommodate their caregiving responsibilities.[3]

With women taking on a huge majority of caregiving, they are disproportionately impacted by a lack of paid leave. Women are twice as likely to stay home to care for a sick child, and three in five women say they have their care responsibilities on their mind when they’re at work. [4] Our society can’t achieve true economic justice for all women when we offer them no support or legal protections to balance caregiving and a career.

Government inaction on paid leave also reinforces the racial wealth gap. Already paid lower for the same work as their white peers, people of color are deeply impacted by inaccessible leave policies. Black women are the primary breadwinners for 70 percent of their families.[5] They’re also more likely than white women to leave or lose their jobs after birth.[6] By refusing to support black women in their careers, we create yet another structural barrier to push women of color out from opportunities for economic advancement.

Let’s take the anniversary of the FMLA to push Congress to give working families, and especially working moms, the relief they need. It is not just the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing. We cannot call ourselves a family-friendly country until we do so.

 


[1] https://equitablegrowth.org/research-paper/paid-family-and-medical-leave-in-the-united-states/?longform=true

[2] United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Table 32. Leave benefits: Access,private industry workers,” National Compensation Survey, March 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ncs/ebs/benefits/2018/employee-benefits-in-the-united-states-march2018.pdf.

[3] https://www.hbs.edu/managing-the-future-of-work/Documents/The%20Caring%20Company%20-%2001.17.19.pdf

[4] “Modern Family Index,” Bright Horizons, https://solutionsatwork.brighthorizons.com/~/media/BH/SAW/PDFs/GeneralAndWellbeing/MFI_2017_Report_v4.ashx

[5] Sarah Jane Glynn, Breadwinning Mothers. (taken from this link: https://www.clasp.org/sites/default/files/publications/2018/12/2018_pfmliscriticalfor_0.pdf)

[6] Lynda Laughlin, Maternity Leave and Employment Patterns. (taken from this link: https://www.clasp.org/sites/default/files/publications/2018/12/2018_pfmliscriticalfor_0.pdf)

Congress Takes First Step to Lower Maternal Mortality and Improve Health Equity

Congress Takes First Step to Lower Maternal Mortality and Improve Health Equity

Siena Ruggeri
December 17, 2018

There’s a silent but deadly epidemic occurring across the United States: women are dying during childbirth at an alarming rate. The United States is the only developed country where the maternal mortality rate is rising. Pregnancy-related deaths increased from 7.2 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987 to a high of 17.8 deaths per 100,000 in 2009 and 2011. On top of that, 50,000 mothers a year experience dangerous complications that have the potential to kill them. U.S. women had a better chance of surviving their pregnancy thirty years ago than they do today. The fact women are worse off than thirty years ago is an embarrassment and a terrifying reality for women who are choosing to start families. If we truly care for one another, we must put a special focus on this critical issue impacting women across the country.

The rising maternal mortality rate is a public health crisis that is receiving a woefully low amount of coverage and legislative responses. California is the only U.S. state that has successfully lowered their maternal mortality rate. From 2006 to 2013, the state cut its maternal death rate in half. This was accomplished by a thorough investigation of the care process, and an implementation of better practices. California hospitals work in a collaborative that shares information and best practices specifically about maternal care. In order for other states to replicate California’s success, Congress must act.

Recently the House and the Senate passed the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, which was introduced by Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler, with bipartisan support and a companion bill in the Senate introduced by Senator Heidi Heitkamp.  It creates maternal mortality review committees in every state that gather data and report their findings back to the Department of Health and Human Services.

(image courtesy of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice)

The U.S. healthcare system denies far too many women the care they need before, during, and after giving birth, a fact that needs to be remedied through legislation. Due to the medical racism that permeates the healthcare system, women of color are frequently ignored by providers when they advocate for their medical needs.

Black women are almost four times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes, pointing to a shocking racial disparity. This is intensified in maternal health care deserts, where women lack access to critical healthcare. In rural and urban areas with limited OB-GYN services, women of color suffer greatly. In her congressional testimony, Stacey Stewart, the president of the women’s health nonprofit March of Dimes, emphasized that women of color often feel less trusted and feel less listened to in the medical system. She pointed to the fact that there are no obstetrical services east of the river in Washington, D.C.’s predominantly Black neighborhoods—women must cross the river to receive any sort of prenatal care. She also observed that in New York City, women of color are 12 times more likely to die as a result of pregnancy than white women. Women of color are disproportionately vulnerable to deadly pregnancy complications, making the maternal mortality crisis a horrifying manifestation of racial injustice.

In his testimony to the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee in September, maternal healthcare advocate Charles Johnson told how he lost his wife Kira after she gave birth to their second child. Kira and Charles, a young Black couple, made sure that hospital staff were aware that Kira was bleeding heavily after her C-section. Yet the hospital waited ten hours to address her medical crisis. By the time hospital staff acted, it was too late. Kira died of massive internal bleeding, leaving behind an 11-hour-old child, her husband, and her other young child. Kira did everything right; she advocated for herself and her child throughout her time in the hospital. Despite Kira and her husband’s persistence, her symptoms were ignored until it was too late.

The CDC Foundation estimates that 60 percent of American pregnancy- and childbirth-related deaths could be prevented. The U.S. healthcare system is focused on infant health while ignoring the holistic needs of women.  As a result, healthcare providers are not equipped to protect pregnant women and prevent complications that can be easily addressed under the right care. We know many of these deaths can be avoided, but we must take action to examine how our healthcare system fails women and create policies that will prevent this.

Congress has taken the first step passing the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, which was only possible because of the continued advocacy of the public. Using this as a first step, it’s important to keep the momentum going to fight for even bigger reforms to make health care safer and more equitable.  Health advocates need to make it clear to legislators that maternal health needs to be a key priority, both as we come to the end of the 115th Congress and in the new Congress. Far too many women, especially women of color, have needlessly died in this public health crisis. The only way to begin working toward a solution to this crisis is providing resources to gather more data on this epidemic so healthcare providers have the tools to prevent more tragic losses.