“The three extraordinary members of Congress we honored are standing strong against opponents who want to take away our access to reproductive health care, eviscerate antidiscrimination programs, and reverse the progress on humane, reasonable workplace leave policies,” National Partnership President Debra L. Ness said. “We are fortunate to have powerful women in the House of Representatives who are standing up to those who want to take our country backward. Working hand in hand with these visionary leaders, we will stop opponents in their tracks and instead build the kind of future we need and deserve.”
Hundreds of prominent women’s and congressional leaders, legal and corporate supporters, and activists turned out to celebrate the three honorees, and to hear them discuss efforts to promote the economic security of America’s women and families. The representatives called on their colleagues in Congress to join them in making workplaces more fair and family friendly, and securing access to quality, affordable health care.
“We still have work to do,” Representative DeLauro said at the event. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is “unpaid leave, and eight of 10 eligible workers cannot afford to take it. Women still make up almost two-thirds of this number, so our fight is not over. We have more to do. We need to modernize, expand FMLA. We need to pass paid sick leave, because being a working parent should not meaning having to choose between your job and taking care of yourself and your family. And it is time that our public policies reflect the way that we live in the 21st century — with both parents in the workforce.”
Representative Duckworth told the crowd about the injuries she suffered after the Black Hawk helicopter she was co-piloting was shot down in Iraq. Because leave policies were not adequate, her husband was fired for taking time to be by her side as she recovered. “Our country and our families will never reach their full potential without equal pay and without an expanded Family and Medical Leave Act,” she said. “We will never reach full equality until all Americans have access to quality health care and all women have access to reproductive health. Working families are the backbone of this country and my colleagues and I should judge our work by how much we are able to accomplish for them. Now, it’s time for all of us to get back to work making the American Dream accessible for all Americans.”
“I think it’s fair to say [House leaders] don’t understand what life is like for most of the country,” Representative Moore told the crowd. “They don’t know what it’s like to fear you will actually lose your job… They don’t know what it’s like to support a family when you are paid minimum wage, or what it’s like to be unable to pay the rent or feed your kids. They have never had to decide whether to send a sick kid to school, when the school won’t take them, or risk losing your job. They don’t understand what it’s like to be without the health care you need or your children need. They don’t understand our struggles. But we understand. These women you honor here today understand. And they understand not because they’ve read a textbook on it, but because they have lived that.”
Other speakers at the event were Ellen Malcolm, chairwoman of the boards of directors of EMILY’s List and the National Partnership, and WRC-TV’s Eun Yang, who emceed the event.
Ness discussed the National Partnership’s four decades of work to advance policies that help workers meet the dual demands of work and family, including the FMLA, which turned 20 this year and has been used more than 100 million times. She reflected on the significance of the law and highlighted critical next steps in fulfilling its promise of a truly family friendly America, including passage of the Healthy Families Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, and measures that would expand the FMLA and establish a national paid family and medical leave program. Ness also urged lawmakers to improve access to quality, affordable, coordinated health care.
About the National Partnership
The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, reproductive health and rights, access to quality, affordable health care and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at NationalPartnership.org.