A heartfelt thanks to this year’s honorees, Representatives Rosa DeLauro, Tammy Duckworth and Gwen Moore, as well as emcee Eun Yang of News4, National Partnership Board Chairwoman Ellen Malcolm and all of you for sharing your stories and making our celebration of the Family and Medical Leave Act an incredible success!
News4 Anchor / Reporter, Emcee
Chairwoman, Board of Directors
Debra L. Ness
President, National Partnership
Rosa L. DeLauro
Congresswoman representing the Third District of Connecticut
Congresswoman representing the Eighth District of Illinois
Congresswoman representing the Fourth District of Wisconsin
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Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro: "The Family and Medical Leave Act began here. The Partnership drafted the first version of the bill, organized a broad coalition to support it, and leaders from both sides of the aisle answered the call....
The policy is very, very personal for me. Chris Dodd gave me the time I needed to get well, and that should be for everyone in this nation not for a select few....
But we still have work to do. 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 mean 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. And families that are headed by single women in the workforce. We need to recognize this and we need to create the policies to affect it....
There is so much we can do to help make this economy work for families. We need to put teeth into the Equal Pay Act — now 50 years old — by seeing the Paycheck Fairness Act become law. We need to expand access to child care and the child tax credit.
But you know, today, let us take a moment, let us reflect on how far we have come. Because we worked hard, we worked together, there are 100 million stories of families united in trying times after an illness or injury. Parents there for their children, and children there for their parents. I know that pushing Congress to do right can be a frustrating experience, but always remember that Congress is the institution with the power to bring profound and positive change. It listens to those who raise their voices and, in this day in age, women increasingly drive the electoral and policy agenda. And if we keep pushing, together, in partnership, I know that we can continue to make women’s and families’ lives less economically insecure than they are today.
We can help write another 100 million stories. We can make a difference. That matters. That is our charge. That is what we will do."
Rep. Tammy Duckworth: "You know as someone who went through a personal tragedy that required months of care in the hospital, I know how important it is to have a loved one by your side in those moments. And, in fact, my family counted on the FMLA when I was wounded in Iraq. My husband had to use it in order to stay by my bedside....
But, in fact, at the end of the 12 weeks, his employer said, 'You come back to work or we’re going to have to hire someone to replace you.' And while we as a family decided that he needed to stay by my side — I ended up spending 13 months in the hospital — we were grateful for those initial 12 weeks that allowed him to be with us, and we didn’t have to worry about his job because we knew it would be there.
The irony of the situation is that my husband was working for the Department of Defense at the time, training military officers — and these are the same people who fired him to come sit by my bedside after I had been wounded in combat. And so we have a long way to go....
Our country and our families will never reach their full potential without equal pay and without an expanded Family and Medical Leave Act. 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."
Rep. Gwen Moore: "I think it’s fair to say [House leaders] don’t understand what life is like for most of the country.
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.
...And they are still able to vote repeatedly to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and take away women’s access to contraception and abortion services. They don’t understand, they can’t understand, they won’t understand what our lives are like and they still refuse to support fair pay or paid sick days. They couldn’t understand poverty and vote to gut Medicare, Medicaid and food/nutrition programs.
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.
...Leaders in the House need to hear from all of us, every single day, until they figure out that the country needs them to support better health care, women’s reproductive rights, family friendly workplaces, and measures to help people in poverty and the middle class. In other words, they need to keep hearing from all of us until they get it right."