Advocates Show Broad Support for Paid Family Medical Leave
February 22, 2019
Adrian Paulsen |
On Thursday, February 14th, advocates from throughout the state gathered to testify in support of Paid Family Medical Leave. That day, the Connecticut General Assembly’s Committee on Labor and Public Employees held a public hearing, and by far, the bill that received the most testimony was Senate Bill 1: An Act Concerning Paid Family and Medical Leave.
Here at the Foundation, we support Paid Family and Medical Leave as part of a broader movement for social and economic justice, and see it as aligned with our mission and values. You can read our testimony in support of this bill here.
The enthusiasm and passion for the bill was palpable, and many brought heartfelt stories of family members suffering, jobs nearly lost, and the intense importance of being able to afford time off to care for loved ones, no matter how family is defined. All advocates for the bill expressed a desire to see health equity and fairness increase for Connecticut’ workers.
The hearing lasted more than eight hours, and advocates who came to testify on the bill dedicated most of their day waiting their turn to give testimony. Such patience, in addition to the large advocate turnout, spoke to the great emotional and economic significance of the bill for Connecticut residents, workers, and business owners.
The vast majority of those who came to the hearing were there to testify in favor of the bill.
Most of the advocates who came to testify in favor of PFML brought personal stories of family medical problems and ethical philosophies that highlighted the need for a Paid Family Medical Leave act to make Connecticut a more just and fair state for all workers. Many of these advocates, such as Councilman Justin Farmer of Hartford, Dr. Veronica Pimentel, and Councilwoman Wildaliz Bermudez, shared stories of family medical problems that nearly destroyed their personal lives.
They also discussed the universal nature of family medical emergencies and explained how the proposal would help address disparities in health equity between the middle class and lower-income people, providing a safety net for those workers who could not otherwise afford to take time off to care for loved ones.
At several points during testimony some advocates broke into tears. Perhaps the most notable moment of emotion came when State Senator Gary Winfield (D) cried upon recalling the difficulties he and his wife faced when their son, who was born premature, refused to eat without him present. Senator Winfield’s son had to remain in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for a prolonged time while Senator Winfield had to work every day because he could not afford to stop working and stay with his son.
Fortunately, Senator Winfield’s son – and the rest of his family – survived this experience, but it led him to argue “this is a bill that is a life-saver.”
He spoke passionately that without the passage of a Paid Family Medical Leave Act, more people will continue to have to make choices like his and many of them will have to put their family members’ health in jeopardy by choosing work and fiscal survival over life and health.
Representative Chairwoman Robyn Porter proved to be a major supporter of the bill, arguing
- “This bill is about the most important people – us” and
- “We have to stop putting a price on things that are priceless.”
Many other advocates echoed and expanded on this sentiment, arguing that PFML would serve to extend the safety net for workers in Connecticut, helping to save lives and improve the quality of lives.
Some advocates, such as Madeline Granato, Policy Manager for the Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund, emphasized a broad and statistically-based picture of the bill’s benefits.
These advocates argued that Senate Bill 1 on Paid Family and Medical Leave would:
- Help to put Connecticut’s businesses on a more even footing with small and medium-sized businesses in other nearby states and
- Help to bring greater health equity to Connecticut workers, particularly single working mothers and African-American and Latinx families.
The terms “safety net,” “health equity,” and “life and death” came up over and over again throughout the testimony, and many advocates indicated the nature of these concerns were near-universal to all workers in Connecticut. These are the themes that dominated the hearing, and they powerfully motivated the vast majority of those who came to testify in favor of the Act Concerning Paid Family and Medical Leave.
Here at the Foundation, we stand in solidarity with all the advocates supporting this bill.
Learn more about the CT Campaign for Paid Family & Medical Leave
Read more about the the issue via CT New Junkie’s article: “Chances of Paid Family Medical Leave Improve”