Aug 4, 2021
Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer Paid Leave For All Press Conference Transcript
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and other Democrats held a press conference on August 4, 2021 to advocate for paid leave for all. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
… person in this country.
Speaker 1: (00:04)
We are also proud members of Care Can’t Wait, fighting for a care economy for all. And I want to recognize and thank every partner from Care Can’t Wait here today. Thank you.
Speaker 1: (00:18)
So we are here today because we have a once in a generation opportunity, an opportunity to finally catch up with the rest of the world, to do something meaningful, to help every working family in this country, particularly grappling with this crisis, an opportunity to build back better, and make history together by finally creating a care infrastructure in this country with meaningful investments in paid leave, childcare, and home and community-based services.
Speaker 1: (00:53)
So we do have to say that right now we are failing on all fronts. We are one of the only countries in the world with no form of guaranteed paid leave for its workers. Four in five working people in this country have no access to paid leave through their jobs. We invest less in childcare and long-term supports than the rest of the industrialized world. And this was a crisis long before COVID, but the pandemic magnified just how important care is. Caregivers have carried us through this pandemic, and we must act now to protect them too, to be sure that we can care for each other, hold onto our jobs, and stay healthy and safe. These policies are tools for public health, economic resilience, and growth, and racial and gender equity.
Speaker 1: (01:47)
Speaker 1: (01:49)
We know paid leave and other care policies would yield millions of jobs, billions in wages, and trillions and GDP. There is no better way to truly build back better and respond to the overlapping crises that we face then with a care infrastructure that can finally hold us all. And we know we believe the time is now.
Speaker 1: (02:16)
So it is my honor to welcome a founder of Care can’t Wait, the Head of National Domestic Workers Alliance and Caring Across Generations, the woman who has reminded us all for years that care is infrastructure, and my good friend, Ai-jen Poo.
Ai-jen Poo: (02:36)
Thank you so much, [Dawn 00:02:38].
Ai-jen Poo: (02:38)
Hello, everybody! On behalf of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Caring Across Generations, and everyone in the Care Can’t Wait coalition, I want to say to all the caregivers out there, we see you. We see you, we honor you, and we are you. That’s why we’re fighting with you, and why we’re proud to be a part of the Paid Leave for All coalition, and we’re going to keep fighting until we win.
Ai-jen Poo: (03:07)
This is our time. For too long we’ve been forced to make impossible choices between the most important roles and responsibilities in our lives, our work and caring for the people we love. We live in a time in our nation where we need more care than ever before. The baby boom generation is aging, we’re all living longer, and millennials are having four million babies every year.
Ai-jen Poo: (03:35)
These impossible choices between family and work have pushed millions of us out of the workforce in the pandemic, especially women and women of color. We’re all just doing the very best we can, and it’s not enough. We need our policies to support caregiving, policies that support childcare, home and community-based care for people with disabilities and our elders, a strong care workforce that earns a living wage. These policies are essential, just like we need roads and bridges to get to work, these programs help us get to work too.
Ai-jen Poo: (04:14)
And you know what else we need? We need time, time to care. We need paid family and medical leave, especially as the pandemic rages on and the Delta variant creates new challenges, we need the ability to take time off from work, to take care of ourselves and our loved ones and not have to worry about whether we have a job when we return. It’s that simple.
Ai-jen Poo: (04:43)
That’s why I’m here today and why I’m so, so proud to be able to introduce a personal hero of mine, someone who has spent her entire life expanding what’s possible for women, someone who knows how to show up and win true progress in our values and for the good of the country, someone who has been fighting for caregivers and our families for decades, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.
Nancy Pelosi: (05:18)
Ai-jen Poo is an icon in our country. To be introduced like that by her is an honor unsurpassed. I will accept your kind words on behalf of the House Democrats who make everything that we do in the House possible. Thank you, Ai-jen, for your remarkable leadership and your successful mobilization of so many people.
Nancy Pelosi: (05:42)
My friends, this is about family, it’s about children, it’s about time. It’s about time that we get all of this done. I’m honored to be here with our colleagues, the senators who are here, two who were formerly in the House, and when the leader comes, he will be three who were formerly the House, Senator Gillibrand, Senator Wyden.
Nancy Pelosi: (06:10)
And let me just say this, when we passed family medical leave in the house before, Bill Clinton had just become President, we had been working on it for a long time. Ron Wyden was in the House, and Patty Murray was working on this as her first bill in the United States Senate. And all of us knew that family medical leave had to be paid if it was really going to be effective.
Nancy Pelosi: (06:37)
While I’m honored to be here with the senators, I want to acknowledge Rosa DeLauro, who has been a godmother of all of these issues for such a long time. And Bobby Scott, the chair of the Education and Labor Committee, and Richie Neal, again, the Committees of Jurisdiction. But let me talk to you about Rosa for a second. When we did a bus trip, we did a bus trip, When Women Succeed America Succeeds, a number of years ago, we were in her district for one of our stops, and a woman came to the front to speak.
Nancy Pelosi: (07:09)
She was a school bus driver, and she said, “Let me tell you what I see every school day. I see moms come to the curb with their child, frequently crying, the child sniffling. She has to put the child on the bus sick because she has no alternative, no paid family and medical leave, no decent wages to afford childcare, no childcare.” Everything we’re talking about affects that woman putting a sick child on the bus, and what that means to the child and the other children.
Nancy Pelosi: (07:46)
In the United States of America. In the United States of America, this was happening. So now under the leadership of Joe Biden and the Biden Harris administration with Democrats in the House and the Senate, we will have this happen. And so let’s make history. Care Can’t Wait!
Nancy Pelosi: (08:05)
Paid Leave for All, the fact that it will now be paid makes a tremendous difference, as you know. And so I want to just say how impressed I am by the coalition, because I always say we can do so much maneuvering in the Congress, but the outside mobilization for all of these issues is really what makes the work successful and better.
Nancy Pelosi: (08:31)
So I want to thank all who are here from all the groups, from the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Moms Rising, Bright Start Early Care and Preschool. Universal preschool, it’s about time. It’s about time! National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Black Women’s Round Table, National Partnership for Women and Families, the Arc, Metro Washington Council, AFL-CIO, Labor Project for Working Families, the list goes on and on.
Nancy Pelosi: (09:03)
And understand, when you go back, thank all of the people that you work with. Acknowledge and let them know that we acknowledge that we can’t do any of this without them. Just think of the liberation this is for families, for moms to be able to work, dads too. It’s not just about the children, as has been said by others already by Dawn, thank you, Dawn, for your leadership, and Ai-jen, that this is about home health care too, not just about children, but home health care and the respect we should have.
Nancy Pelosi: (09:40)
I’ll close by just saying in one of my town meetings in San Francisco when we talked about home health care and one of the witnesses who was a home health care worker, she said, “You know, when they complain to me about the fact that I want a raise, a decent pay for caring for their family, I’ll say, ‘If you don’t think I’m worth it, do you think your mother’s worth it? Do you think your mother’s worth it?'”
Nancy Pelosi: (10:07)
Well, we think our children, our mothers, anyone that needs care is worth it. We think that the, well, I’ll just say what we say in San Francisco, “Children learning, parents earning, that’s what our country should be about.”
Nancy Pelosi: (10:23)
So with that, now who am I yielding to? Now I’m going to yield to, well, Chuck Schumer, but he’s not here.
Nancy Pelosi: (10:29)
But again, right here from the start of family and medical leave, Senator Patty Murray, now the chair of the Health Committee, which is the Committee of Jurisdiction, as you know, in the Senate, but help, indeed, she has done all along the way. Her values on this subject are renown. I don’t have to tell you about them, but I do want to thank her for them right now. As I yield to the distinguished Senator, the mom in sneakers from the state of Washington-
Speaker 2: (10:59)
Still in sneakers!
Nancy Pelosi: (10:59)
Right, still in sneakers, there we go! She’s been walking, and working, and marching for the children, for our families, Senator, Madam Chair, Patty Murray.
Patty Murray: (11:14)
Madam Speaker, it is an honor to be introduced by the longest champion I have ever known for these issues regarding our children and our ability to participate in this economy in our great country in a meaningful way. Thank you for your tremendous work, and to our allies in the House who couldn’t be here with us today, but who have just been such tremendous champions, and who are leading the way along with Speaker Pelosi to get this done. Rosa DeLauro and Bobby Scott are great partners, and I want to really acknowledge them. Yeah, huge applause line.
Patty Murray: (11:50)
And I’m delighted to be here with Senator Gillibrand who was the original introducer of the Paid Family Leave in the Senate who has not stopped advocating and fighting for this every step of the way, we’re going to get there. We’re going to get there. And the chairman of the Finance Committee, Ron Wyden, who’s been our partner in getting this done, we’re delighted that this is not just a women’s issue, it’s a men’s issue. He is representing all the men in this country who know as much as all of us do how important this is.
Patty Murray: (12:21)
And of course, to the great advocates and leaders behind us, thank you for being there every step of the way. Thank you to the Paid Leave for All team for this incredible event and what you’re doing for everyone who’s here and all of your support.
Patty Murray: (12:37)
As the Speaker said, I have been fighting for paid leave since I first got into politics. And when I first came into the Senate back in 1993, the very first bill on the floor that we worked for weeks to get passed under Senator Ted Kennedy was the Family and Medical Leave Act, and it was a huge accomplishment. But it was unpaid, but it did allow people to take time off when someone in their family was seriously ill. But it was clear at the time that was just the first step, 1993, first step, and we have been fighting every day since to build on that progress and pass Paid Leave for All.
Patty Murray: (13:18)
Today, we’re the only developed country in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid leave. That’s astonishing. We are the only developed country where working parents can’t afford to take time off after giving birth, or after a partner’s delivery, or after adopting a child, or where workers have to choose between a paycheck and taking care of themselves, or a child, or a loved one who’s seriously ill. That is unacceptable in the United States of America. It is a national disgrace that in 2021, we are still forcing workers to make impossible choices. So it is long past time this country establish a national paid family and medical leave program.
Patty Murray: (14:02)
And you know, this policy isn’t just good for working families, this is good for our economy. Our lack of care policies, including paid leave, is costing our economy billions each year because women are forced out of the workforce. And paid leave wouldn’t just help employers retain their employees and boost productivity, it’s going to help small businesses compete on a level playing field with larger corporations who offer paid leave. Paid leave is going to keep our communities healthier. We know when workers with some serious illnesses have paid medical leave, they are better able to manage ongoing treatments, and Paid Family Leave helps parents and kids stay healthy.
Patty Murray: (14:47)
And by the way, paid leave will help us counter the systemic racial and gender inequities in our workforce. We all know women do the majority of caregiving work and we face huge challenges without paid leave. Workers of color are less likely to have access to paid leave, and women of color in particular who are more likely to have significant care responsibilities, disproportionally see lost wages and professional setbacks as a result.
Patty Murray: (15:20)
I got to tell you, for years now, I have been banging on doors in Congress, trying to get my colleagues to talk about paid leave, and it’s been pretty lonely, right, [inaudible 00:15:30]? But we know we need to make childcare affordable. We know we need to provide home care. We know we need to make sure our care workers have paid wages. These issues have so long just been an afterthought to the quote “real economic problems”. But you know what? COVID-19 thrust these once silent epidemics to the center stage. And now I have colleagues coming up to me on a daily basis and going, “Patty, this is a big problem.”
Patty Murray: (15:59)
What? You didn’t know? Well now you do, and we do too. So thi-…
Sen. Murray: (16:03)
You didn’t know. Well, now you do, and we do too, so this is our moment to get this done. I am so committed to this fight with all of my brothers and sisters up here, and I’m so glad all of you are fighting alongside this. Let’s get this done. Thank you so much.
Nancy Pelosi: (16:20)
Just listening to Patty talk about those early days reminds me of Congressman George Miller, who was chairman in the House, who was so instrumental in doing this, and in the Senate, Chris Dodd of Connecticut. They just made it their life work for a very long time that would come to fruition.
Sen. Murray: (16:38)
They were the grandparents of this issue. That’s right.
Sen. Gillibrand: (16:41)
[crosstalk 00:16:41]. Our next speaker is our majority leader in the Senate, who has been at the forefront of family issues, paid leave, affordable daycare, universal pre-K. He’s been there advocating for it, and he’s going to get it across the finish line, Senator Chuck Schumer.
Sen. Schumer: (16:59)
Well, first I want to… First, I want to hold my papers down.
Nancy Pelosi: (17:04)
You’re on your own [crosstalk 00:17:05].
Sen. Schumer: (17:08)
We have such good members. Ron Wyden does everything. He’s the all-purpose finance chairman. Anyway, it’s great to be here. I want to thank our great speaker, Nancy Pelosi. She mentioned George Miller, my landlord for 35 years. I used to tell people I’ve lived with my wife 37 years and with George Miller 35 years, because he was the house in which we lived. But she has been such a passionate leader for all of these things, and we’re great partners, and we probably talk to each other about five, six times a day. And as I’ve mentioned previously, she once in a while now laughs at my jokes. I want to thank Patty Murray. She has been an inspiration to all of us in the Senate in fighting for these issues.
Sen. Schumer: (17:56)
Every time Patty raises her hand in the caucus, everyone knows that she is going to speak about family, she’s going to speak about children in a persistent, passionate, and so intelligent and thoughtful way. She’s our leader on this issues, and we’re great to have her, and the two men here, Chuck Schumer and Ron Wyden, willingly follow her lead. And I could say the same thing about my great partner and friend on this issue, Kirsten Gillibrand. Having a more diverse Senate or any legislative body really makes a difference. We saw it yesterday when Cori Bush had been evicted herself, and knew the horror of being evicted and led the charge. But both Kirsten and Patty, as well as Speaker Pelosi, have seen how women are discriminated against, how our law has never paid attention to things that matter of course to all of us, and of course to families, but to women in particular. And the fact that they are in the Senate and the fact that they are so hard on these issues and are beacons for us means that we are going to succeed on these issues.
Sen. Schumer: (19:08)
So how many of you were on the bus? Hi, bus people. We’re also trying to get some money for electric buses, so those buses are nice and clean. There’s a lot of things to do. We got a lot to do, but in any case, this is an amazing moment for our country. It’s a unique moment. It’s a unique moment. When you think back to our history and you realize there are certain moments where you can change America… And Franklin D. Roosevelt did that in the ’30s, and Lyndon Johnson did it in the Great Society, and we have that unique opportunity. It comes around about once every 50 years, and here we are. Let us not forsake it. It’s too important. Now, people are beginning after vaccines are being distributed. And by the way, I saw that Governor DeSantis, the anti-vaccine person, is now behind in the polls to Governor Crist.
Sen. Schumer: (20:07)
Yeah, it doesn’t pay to be backward on these issues even politically. But in any case, now that we’re getting back to work, we’re starting to rebuild our lives. Too many families still struggle to make ends meet, and what COVID has done is it’s sort of like a magnifying glass. I like to say about Dr. King, one of the greatest men America ever had, Dr. Martin Luther King, that with his broad shoulders, he held up a giant mirror. And then with his intelligence, his eloquence, and his faith, he forced America to look into that mirror, and they didn’t like what they saw. And that began the long road which we’re still trotting of racial equality, towards racial equality. Well, COVID in a different way did the same thing. It exhibited all the problems in our society. It exacerbated the problems of lack of childcare.
Sen. Schumer: (21:03)
It exacerbated and showed the problems of lack of sick leave and family leave. It showed how families in modern America are struggling. The old days… When I was a kid, my father was an exterminator. My mother was what’s called a housewife. She stayed home. And when the car broke down, when they didn’t have money, when someone got sick, when someone had to travel, when someone was having a child or had a parent who was very sick, there was at least one parent always there. Do you know what percentage of families are like that now? About 16% of all families are two-parent families with only one parent working. The rest are either single parents or both parents working, because you can’t survive unless both parents work if you’re a two-person family, two-adult family. And so we need these changes. COVID showed we needed these changes. We needed them before COVID, but COVID highlighted these changes. And that’s why what President Biden has done with his Build Back Better and the families part of Build Back Better is so, so vital. Whether it’s paid leave, which I know people took the bus trip for, or home care, or childcare, we need it all. We need to help average families, middle- class families, deal with the struggles they deal with day to day. We need to help those who are trying to struggle to get to the middle-class make it easier. And the things we’re standing for here, paid leave, family leave, sick leave, childcare, and all the other issues in the families bill, can make that happen. So as I said when I started, this is a unique moment for all of us. Let us not pass it by. Let us not pass it by. And we will make… All of us, all of you, all of you, and not all of, but the majority of people over there, we’re all going to make it happen. Thank you.
Speaker 3: (23:15)
Thank you so much, Leader. Thank you for being here today. And it is now my great honor to bring up one of the co-sponsors of the FAMILY Act, one of our long-term champions and warriors. Also, I want to add quickly, we were in New York state, and we heard about paid leave. We were in Albany in New York City, and we heard about the importance of paid leave from small businesses, advocates, families, and they all thanked you both. So thank you for championing this, and now to our warrior, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
Sen. Gillibrand: (23:46)
Thank you, everyone. I want to start by thanking Leader Schumer. It makes such a difference to have the majority leader of the United States care about national paid leave. It makes all the difference in negotiating and being at this position we are right now.
Sen. Schumer: (24:01)
Sen. Gillibrand: (24:03)
10 years. True, that’s 12. Okay, all true. I want to thank our extraordinary speaker. I’ve never met a person who has seen her responsibility as a leader in the prism of families more than I’ve seen from Speaker Pelosi. She understands fundamentally that America can’t recover if American families can’t recover, and so she is not only a poignant advocate, but somebody who’s lived it, knows it, feels it, breaths it, and is willing to fight for it. So thank you so much, Speaker Pelosi. I want to thank my two colleagues in the Senate. Patty Murray is such an extraordinary leader for the HELP committee. I don’t think anyone’s ever taken on such an expansive issues and delivered year after year after year. Whether she’s fighting for paid leave, or sick days, or affordable daycare, or universal pre-K, she’s at the forefront of writing the legislation. She literally knows these issues inside and out, and I’m just blessed to work with her every single day.
Sen. Gillibrand: (25:07)
And I want to thank Senator Wyden, because as chair of the Finance Committee, it all goes through him. And I remember having lunch with him probably three or four years ago, and talking about why this was so important, and not only did he get it immediately, but he committed right there and then, “I will be with you every step of the way.” And without him, we would not get this across the finish line. Thank you so much, Senator Wyden. So I want to agree with the remarks of all my colleagues. This is an issue not only whose time has come, but an issue that represents the values of America. We’ve seen how this pandemic exacerbated longstanding inequities, and we’ve seen how if we had had the basic care economy moving and the infrastructure behind it, this pandemic would not have hit people so hard.
Sen. Gillibrand: (25:59)
Just imagine for a moment that we actually had paid leave in place when this pandemic hit. It would have meant that people could have stayed on their jobs. It would have meant they would have continued to have an income, and it would have meant that they would be able to secure and keep their children safe. When children and families had to stay home because schools were closed, parents had to make the tough decisions of who would have to quit their job and who would no longer be able to earn an income. That was a devastating, devastating decision for so many parents. It was not easy, and it resulted in millions, millions, over 5 million women, leaving the workplace to meet those urgent needs of their families. Add to that all the crises we saw with families who had an ill family member. Who was available to stay home when someone was ill with COVID? COVID didn’t come and go within days.
Sen. Gillibrand: (26:53)
Sometimes it lasted weeks, sometimes it lasted months, and so families had to make that tough decision over and over again as to who would stay home. And so this economy has been forever harmed, because we didn’t have the basic care economy, the basic care infrastructure in place before it. If we had had different leaders, if we had had a different vision over the decades before, we would have been better prepared, but we have not had the coalition and the ability to be at the precipice of passing this care economy than we have today. We are in a unique moment in history. This has taken over 20 years of advocacy from the people standing with us today, organizations that understand how important this family plan is. Joe Biden believes in the American Families Plan. He knows America does not recover until American families recover, and so this is fundamental to our democracy.
Sen. Gillibrand: (27:52)
It is fundamental to who we are. And so I know because of the work that’s been put in with everyone on this stage, with everyone who’s been on this bus, with everyone who’s here with us today, this will get done. This is the moment when our leadership and our advocacy matters. The fact that we have the House and the Senate and the presidency is why we will get national paid leave done. It is why we will be able to create economic recovery for everyone. Now, I know we’ve had a big debate about what is infrastructure in America, but let’s define infrastructure as that what is required to get the economy moving again. Well, I can promise you, that definitely includes roads and bridges and sewers and high-speed rail and rural broadband and new IT, but I promise you also, it also includes having a national paid and family leave program.
Sen. Gillibrand: (28:45)
It also includes universal pre-K and affordable daycare. It includes equal pay. These are the fundamental things that allow people to get back to work to let the economy recover, and you cannot recover without both sides, both the hard traditional infrastructure and the soft human infrastructure, the care economy that we are talking about today, and we are now on the precipice of passing this essential legislation. So thank you to everyone, and I now get to call up Senator Ron Wyden, who as chairman of the Finance Committee is going to write this bill and get it done.
Sen. Wyden: (29:23)
Thank you, Senator Gillibrand, and to the speaker and my Northwest colleague, Senator Murray, Senator Gillibrand, Rosa DeLauro. The wonderful folks that are here today have all spent, in the case of my colleagues, decades, decades, and decades, making the case for why this is so essential. Now, how many of you have heard of something called reconciliation? Now, I can tell you, if you walked into a coffee shop in America, you wouldn’t find one out of a hundred people who’d be up on this. But the reason I bring it up is because what all of us are showing with our presence today is we are going to be mobilizing in every corner of the country, because we are going to need every single vote. Every single vote, literally and figuratively.
Sen. Wyden: (30:35)
And what I just wanted to mention because Senator Gillibrand said it, and Senator Schumer, that yes, the Senate Finance Committee, because of some technical kinds of matters that Senator Murray and I are always working out every single day… We’re going to have to sign off, we’re going to work together on it. But let me tell you what our pledge is today. With the speaker, with the majority leader, with my wonderful colleagues, our pledge to you is when Congress gets done this fall, family leave, paid family leave, will not be on the cutting room floor.
Sen. Wyden: (31:18)
And I’ll just close by saying the alternative is unacceptable. It’s unacceptable that new mothers are forced to choose between recovering from childbirth or going back to work immediately. It’s unacceptable that families are left with no options when a family member become seriously ill, something I’ve cared about since my days with the Gray Panthers. We’re just saying those kinds of practices that have been so unacceptable are going to be part of the past. We’re going to try this fall to make sure that those practices go into the dustbin of-
Sen. Wyden: (32:03)
… practices go into the dustbin of outdated policies that short change families. So yes, this was part of what we got to deal with in the Finance Committee, but every one of us are going to be working every single committee because our pledge to you is we’re going to deliver every single vote for paid leave. Thank you.
Speaker 4: (32:21)
Thank you, Chairman.
Speaker 5: (32:21)
Thank you, everybody.
Thank you. Thank you, Senator. I thank all of you for being here today. Thank you for that pledge. We’re going to fight alongside you to make sure that nothing is left behind, that the whole care economy passes in this bill, that we take this opportunity. And with that, I want to invite a few friends to the stage, starting with Ruth Barton, Senior Vice President of Moms Rising, a founding Board Member of Paid Leave For All, and a good friend. Ruth.
Ruth Martin: (32:54)
Thank you, Dawn. I am Ruth Martin. This is my daughter, Vivian. It’s Camp Civics this week. I’m a Senior Vice President at Moms Rising, the national online and on the ground organization of more than a million members and their families. And along with our Spanish language community, [foreign language 00:33:11], we work every day to build a nation where both businesses and families can thrive. I’m here to say that America’s moms and families need paid leave in order to thrive, we need a robust care infrastructure that includes quality affordable childcare in order to thrive, and we need lawmakers who understand the challenges we face and who prioritize our success in order to thrive. Because our country guarantees zero weeks of paid leave, too many women must go right back to their jobs after having babies, too many parents can’t hold their child’s hand during chemotherapy and too many of us can’t help our loved ones adjust to rehab or memory care. Too many of us miss our baby’s first smile or our parent’s last breath.
Ruth Martin: (33:58)
I lost my mom seven weeks ago. Losing a parent is devastating. Losing a parent during a pandemic is even worse and doing it without paid leave is horrendous. I know this firsthand because while I have paid leave, my sister who lives in Maryland and my brothers who both live in West Virginia, where our mom lived and died, do not have paid leave. Caring for our mom, who died of lung cancer over the course of about six months, fell to my siblings and me because there is no care infrastructure in this country. When our mom came home from the hospital after her initial diagnosis, I went back and forth across state lines every month to help out. When my sister or I couldn’t be there, my brothers had to step in to provide care and they both lost wages and they have families to support. It shouldn’t be that way.
Ruth Martin: (34:56)
During her dying days, my siblings and I were terrified of leaving her alone without help when the end came. It made a difficult, terribly painful situation immeasurably worse. We need paid leave in the moments that break our hearts and in the moments that fill them with joy. We’re counting on Congress to do what’s right for moms, families, businesses, and our economy by passing the American Families Plan and ensuring that in this country, everyone has paid leave. It is long overdue. We thank you for being here, and with that, I’m so proud to introduce Marcia St. Hilaire-Finn.
Marcia St. Hilaire-Finn: (35:51)
Thank you, Ruth, members of Congress, and all the participants here today. My name is my Marcia St. Hilaire-Finn, and I am the founder and owner of Bright Start Early Care and Preschool in Washington, D.C., and a member of the Main Street Alliance. 30 years ago, I came to the U.S. from the Eastern Caribbean island of Dominica for a career in nursing. I started Bright Start in 2002 after seeing there was no nearby childcare center to fit my unique schedule and provide quality care for our daughter. Launched with just two employees, my business will have three locations and 36 employees this summer. This past year has been one of the most difficult ever for my business and for most small businesses, particularly childcare centers across the country.
Marcia St. Hilaire-Finn: (36:50)
I am here today to add my voice as a caregiver, childcare center owner, and a small business owner to the need for historical investment in our nation’s care infrastructure to get on the path to recovery and resilience. Early on, to attract the best employees, we provided one week paid sick leave and two weeks of paid vacation. As a result, we have extremely low turnover and our children benefit from being with the same staff. But this is not enough. I’ve had employees who needed more time off, several to welcome a new baby, and two for cancer treatments. That’s why small business owners support a nationally paid family and medical leave program. In a recent, Main Street Alliance survey, support for paid leave and childcare was as high as 90%. 88% of respondents said they had faced business challenges without these programs.
Marcia St. Hilaire-Finn: (38:04)
The cost of doing nothing is hurting small businesses just when we need support to recover and thrive. That’s why I strongly support a paid family and medical leave program in the district. Paid family and medical leave works for small businesses and our employees. It’s time for this to be a national program. We also need major investments in childcare to get the economy going again. Businesses large and small across the country depend on quality affordable care so their employees can go to work. And childcare businesses, already fragile, need much more assistance to make quality childcare accessible and affordable for everyone who wants and needs it. As a mother, caregiver, childcare center director, and small business owner, I am here to say, care can’t wait any longer. Like the boss says, “Let’s make history. Care can’t wait.” Oh, that’s it. All right. And now I would like to bring up Melanie Campbell from the National Coalition For Black Civic Participation and Black Women’s Roundtable.
Melanie Campbell: (39:39)
Thank you. Thank you. That’s right, care can’t wait. Can I hear you back there? Care can’t wait. We are going to make history. So good afternoon. I’m here today to be a voice of so many African-Americans, Black women, and families who couldn’t be here today, who are depending on us to deliver. 10 years ago, I think about Carol Joyner, I had no idea that people didn’t have paid family leave till I met Carol Joyner and Ellen Bravo and Wendy Chun Hoon, and they educated me because I assumed, of course, everybody has paid leave or sick leave. So I thank you for that. For Black women and families, paid leave is a critical issue. Black women, we over index in jobs that are considered frontline jobs. During this coronavirus pandemic, really, a light was shined on that reality. This puts us at risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
Melanie Campbell: (40:49)
And many Black women working in these frontline jobs like home healthcare workers, grocery store workers, janitorial service workers, teachers, hotel workers, delivery drivers, and so many others do not earn enough paid leave or single day of paid leave. 68% of Black women are the sole breadwinners in our households. This puts Black women on the frontline at work and at home, which makes us the least able to afford losing any portion of our pay. So, for Black women, if an illness strikes, we must make the agonizing choice to risk our jobs and the financial stability of our households if we stay at home or our health and the health of our coworkers and community if we go to work while we’re sick. Without paid leave, Black women have only two options, lose pay to get well or care for a family member who needs help or go to work sick or leave sick family members behind to fend for themselves. No one, no one should have to make these types of choices for their families, Black, White, whatever color, whatever creed. This is the United States of America and we must, we must do better.
Melanie Campbell: (42:15)
Over 50% of the home care workers in this country are Black women. These women work to care for other people’s family members. Some of whom are the family members of those right here in Congress. These women work long hours for less than living wages with no paid leave, no employee benefits, and often retire in poverty because they never earned enough money to save for retirement. This is why we’re here. This is why we’re here. So say it with me, “We’re going to pass Paid Family Leave For All.”
Speaker 6: (42:49)
We’re going to pass Paid Family Leave For All.
Melanie Campbell: (42:50)
We’re going to make history.
Speaker 6: (42:51)
We’re going to make history.
Melanie Campbell: (42:52)
Speaker 6: (42:53)
Melanie Campbell: (42:54)
Let’s get this done. So it is my honor and privilege to introduce Debra Ness with the National Partnership for Women & Families. Debra.
Debra Ness: (43:07)
Melanie. Hello, everybody, and thank you for being here. I’m here representing the National Partnership for Women & Families, which for 50 years has been working for equity and to improve the lives of women and families. But I’m also here as a daughter, as a spouse, as a mom, and as a grandmom. And as I listened to the speakers today, I couldn’t help reflecting on the fact that I’m here today because I was lucky enough to have paid family and medical leave. I was lucky enough to have a job where I could stay home to recover from a burst appendix that almost killed me. I was lucky enough to be home in the final weeks of my husband’s life. I was lucky enough now to be able to help my 90 year old parents make probably the most important transition in their lives. And if I have that opportunity, everybody should have that opportunity. And there are too many women and families who are suffering because they don’t have that basic right and protection.
Debra Ness: (44:29)
This is not only a moral imperative. It’s not only a reflection of the kind of country we are, but it is also just common sense. Senator Gillibrand talked about the fact that there is a cost to the stupidity of not having better policies in our country. And the numbers that have most recently been crunched show that women’s participation in the workforce has been going down steadily for the past 10 years. And they got a big push out of the workforce during COVID. And we’re not going to see that turn around until we get policies like paid family and medical leave and childcare and home and community based care and until we have decent wages and benefits for the people who provide the care. So we can put a number on it. Those families with women who can’t be in the workforce because they have to care for themselves or their families are losing $237 billion a year. That’s money left on the table and it’s costing our economy $650 billion a year.
Debra Ness: (45:52)
If we were participating in the workforce in the same way that every other wealthy country in this world participates, our GDP would have $650 billion more a year. So this is not just a moral imperative, it makes economic sense. But for all of us who are on this stage today, all of you who are in this crowd, I think you’re here because you know that this makes sense at every level of our being. We cannot be a country proud of who we are if we are leaving people in the most desperate straights at the time when they are in the most desperate need. So we will get it done. It’s been 28 years since we passed family and medical leave. That’s way too long and care, care for people who are sick, care for our kids who are home, care for our elders, care for our spouses, that care can’t wait. And so we’re going to pass it this year, now. Thank you. And now it is my pleasure to introduce Nicole Jorwic, who was a mighty warrior from Arc.
Nicole Jorwic: (47:04)
Thank you so much. Thank you so much. It’s my honor to be here. My name is Nicole Jorwic. I’m the Senior Director of Public Policy for The Arc of the United States, but I’m also here today as a family caregiver to my brother, Chris, who’s 32 and has autism, having access to both paid leave that I need to be an effective support and caregiver and the home and community-based services, or HCBS, that he needs for independence have both been a struggle. I miss work, just like my other family members, to provide the supports that the broken service system and underfunded service system funded by Medicaid couldn’t in the state of Illinois that has over 20,000 people on waiting lists, both people with disabilities and aging adults for these services. For families like mine, we must fund both access to paid leave for all family caregivers and a robust Medicaid home and community-based service system with a well-paid direct care workforce. In my role at The Arc, I am lucky to spend a fair amount of my time-
Nicole Jorwic: (48:03)
In my role at The Arc, I am lucky to spend a fair amount of my time on the road at least before the pandemic, now just a lot of Zoom. But still what’s true is that the number one thing I can say without hesitation that I hear about is a lack of supports for family caregivers and lack of enough home and community-based services. And the Direct Care Workforce and what it means to the lives of workers and the individuals they serve. When I say crisis and that’s what the Direct Care Workforce is in, it really doesn’t do it justice. Having a skilled, properly trained, and well-paid workforce is a linchpin for success for so many people with disabilities and aging adults to live the life they choose. And in some cases, it literally can mean life and death.
Nicole Jorwic: (48:43)
For people with disabilities, the workforce includes personal care attendants, home care workers, home health workers who play a fundamental role in the lives of people with disabilities, as well as aging adults, their presence and assistance allow people receiving services to lead their full lives. And those services also allow families like mine to be part of the economy with the peace of mind that our family members and people with disabilities and aging adults are well cared for by a workforce that is also well cared for.
Nicole Jorwic: (49:14)
I know what not having that peace of mind look like. The biggest reason that I’m here to talk about this issue is because I am Chris’ sister and our family has been impacted by that lack of family leave, paid leave in addition to not having access to those home and community-based services. My brother lives in the suburbs of Chicago with my parents who both work full-time jobs. Chris has a series of direct care workers who come throughout the week to get Chris out into the community. He spends time volunteering with the elderly working out and exploring job opportunities. It sounds pretty great, right? And it can be, but it all hangs on a thread.
Nicole Jorwic: (49:50)
And when someone doesn’t show up, it means my mom is missing work or my dad has to try to work from home to support Chris or other family members help us cover. But that isn’t always available and I’m always acutely aware that many don’t have that backup. It also has a very real impact on the progress that my brother can make in his own life. The stress I hear in my mom’s voice every time I asked for an update is the same stress that I hear from every family member of someone with a disability or an aging adult who’s just trying to get by.
Nicole Jorwic: (50:21)
The gravity of, this is why we need access to paid family leave and a robust Medicaid HCBS system. Congress must include comprehensive paid leave policy as well as the Better Care Better Jobs Act, a bill that would pump $400 billion into the Medicaid HCBS system to create more services and better direct care jobs, and this all must be included in the reconciliation process or we can’t recover as a country.
Nicole Jorwic: (50:50)
This will help move people off of waiting lists, take the pressure off of family caregivers. With both access to pay leave, and HCBS covered, we will do better for Chris, families like mine across the country, supporting family members of with disabilities and aging adults. Will do better for the direct care workers who provide those HCBS services and all the childcare workers, their families, and the society as a whole. Let’s do this because care can’t wait. It is now my pleasure to introduce Dyana Forester from the Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO.
Dyana Forester: (51:33)
Hello, it is hot up here and I am going to move it fast. So I’m a woman with very few words and more actions. I am the president of the Metro Washington Labor Council and I proudly say that because I represent the unions, 140 unions throughout the metropolitan area. And I fought for paid sick days with this young lady and this young lady. And we fought for $15 an hour minimum wage. And we fought for paid family medical leave right here in DC. And yesterday I think I spent maybe it felt like a year, but I think it was only a month in fighting to make sure that we utilize the paid family medical leave system to extend, so successfully extend medical leave.
Dyana Forester: (52:28)
And I’m saying we fought. When I got dressed today to leave the house, my daughter said, “Mommy, I thought you were taking the day off.” She said, “Where are you fighting for it now?” I said, “I’m going to keep fighting every day, but I’m going to look good today doing it because I’m going to celebrate.” So I do want to take a moment of personal privilege because when we were fighting for these in labor, right? When we fight for legislative efforts, we have elected officials that remind us that we’re supposed to be only be doing this for our members, so why don’t we do it at the collective bargaining table?
Dyana Forester: (52:59)
And I’ve been a part of some of these fights, I could tell you what the opposition is going to say before they even get to you, so I could tell you how to respond to it. But I do want to take this moment of personal privilege to share a story that I don’t think I shared. The reason why I personally fight is because I know a young lady that grew up here in this city and watched the city change and push people of color like me out.
Dyana Forester: (53:25)
And watch the school system fail them. And I also know that this young lady had a child at 18-years-old and she spent the past 10 years trying to prove that she was worthy. That just because she made a mistake of having a child at 18, that her and her child had a right to quality education, affordable housing. And she had a right to be a part of her community. 10 years later, she felt like she was in a good place, made change in her community. And she decided she wanted to have her next child.
Dyana Forester: (54:02)
She had that child, worked for a small nonprofit organization, did great work. And when she had that child, she saved up her vacation leave, her sick leave, put together some resources to help carry her through the cesarean and then also stay at home so she can nurse that baby. And then after all the money was depleted and vacation, all the savings done, she returned back to work first week. Hard to leave that baby because she was nursing her. But then when she returned back to work, less than 24 hours, she had a call that her daughter had to go to the emergency room, her oldest daughter.
Dyana Forester: (54:47)
And her daughter had to have emergency surgery. First year of middle school, the daughter was distraught. Mommy had to hold it together and say everything was going to be okay. This is how you’re starting your first year of middle school. For two weeks and a month, she had to have surgery, she had to go to appointments and she needed her mother to be able to say everything was going to be okay. But what she didn’t know it was mommy didn’t know how the rent was going to get paid that month. Because she just got back from maternity leave, rent it was not paid.
Dyana Forester: (55:23)
But mommy had to held it together. So when people ask me, “Why do we fight for these things?” Because that young lady was me and I bumped into members that work in Safeway and Giant and make sure that we keep groceries on the table that come to work sick because they need to pay their bills. People that are making decisions right now that’s life or death, leaving children at home because they need to pay their bills. So now I think it’s time more than ever when we realize that people need 10 days off to quarantine and it’s our job as a government to support that.
Dyana Forester: (56:08)
Well, we know when people go to work sick, they get other people sick. It ain’t rocket science. I think the first time I heard on the news, I was like, “Wow, why didn’t I put that in the lobby pack?” But what I will leave to say is this pandemic has been hard on us. We’ve all lost people. And we had to pick up and fight. Maybe not being able to step away to take that in. Some of us, I know like Simone Biles once said, “I need a mental health break. I need to step away for a second,” but we can’t. But what we have to do is we have to learn from the mistakes that we made in the past, right?
Dyana Forester: (56:49)
We learn more from the things that we’ve done wrong than the things we did right. And if we had paid leave for many folks, they would not have to go on a UI, unemployment benefits. Our unemployment system wouldn’t be drained because we would invest it in times like this. So now we have to realize that it’s our responsibility to Build Back Better. Thank you. Oh, and I get to introduce this rockstar who gets me in so many fights. Every time she calls me, I don’t know why I answer the phone. Carol Joiner.
Carol Joiner: (57:37)
Does this fit up here? [inaudible 00:57:39] Okay. I have to hold it. All right. How are we doing? I was assigned the Herculean task of wrapping it up, getting us out of this heat and addressing our last and final points about this critical moment that we’re in. Thank you, Deanna. My sister, my partner. For so many years, we’ve seen each other through so many different organizations in DC. And I know when she shows up, if she’s at the table, if she is at that table, that it’s a good fight and I want to be in it.
Carol Joiner: (58:15)
So I also want to thank our Paid Leave for All activists who were all here for Dawn Hucklebridge for running a fabulous campaign. The members of Congress, the members of Congress for bringing us together today. All of my partners behind me, those in labor way behind, those right behind me like Melanie Campbell, [inaudible 00:58:37] Ruth Martin, all of you have been stewards of this moment.
Carol Joiner: (58:44)
We’re here today sounding the call for comprehensive paid family and medical leave. This is our moment and the collective embarrassment and national shame that the richest nation in the world has failed us has brought us to this moment. It’s failed us because we lack pay time to care in the United States. This is our moment to ensure that we all get the paid leave that we need. I want to celebrate right now the decades of work that brought us to this moment.
Carol Joiner: (59:19)
Over the years, our movement with many people standing right behind me have built national and statewide coalitions engaged tens and thousands of working people who have been harmed as Deanna just told us, harmed by the lack of care. And the fact that we don’t have a paid leave program. We have passed paid leave in 10 states collectively. We have addressed this issue in blogs and social media, everywhere that we can. We continually improve the model, strengthen the movement and increase the momentum for paid family and medical leave and all the systems of care.
Carol Joiner: (01:00:03)
These local activists that we talk about always had their eyes on the prize on a federal program. We must make certain that the Paid Leave for All bus that you see right behind you is a glorious culmination, historic culmination of the road that they have paved. The roads have passed national paid family and medical leave, and finally ensure that we all have the care that we need. As their work has shown, we need to guarantee at least a minimum of 12 weeks of paid time from the start for every working person to bond with the new child, care for themselves or a seriously ill loved one and provide the care that they need.
Carol Joiner: (01:00:54)
The state wins that have passed have demonstrated that we need to recognize all families and allow people to be there for each other, whether they are related by blood or affinity. They’ve made the case that a paid leave program must ensure a progressive wage replacement, so that when you take leave you can afford to do so and still pay your bills. And know, be absolutely sure that you’ll be able to return to your job. Our nation is at a crossroads right now. We see it everywhere and every day. I know you see it. We’re fighting to build a more just society that ensures the right to vote. Our ability to reverse climate change, racial and gender justice, and so many more huge issues core to all of this fundamental to all of this is the human right to care for those we love.
Carol Joiner: (01:01:58)
Thank you so much for being here today for coming out for managing the heat and for recognizing this bus, this fabulous bus across the street that’s making its way south and then out west in order to take this argument to millions of other people that we need paid family and medical leave. We need it right now. When Congress comes back, we need to pass comprehensive paid family and medical leave. So send this bus on with me. When I say three, say onward 1, 2, 3.
Carol Joiner: (01:02:34)
1, 2, 3.
Carol Joiner: (01:02:36)
Paid leave for all.
Speaker 7: (01:02:49)
And with that, I want to add one thing you can do. If you’re not joining us on the bus, you can still join in with the bus. You can go to PaidLeaveForAll.org, click Take Action. Reach out to your members of Congress, your senators. You can tweet. Tell your stories, #PaidLeaveforAll-