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Women with no paid family leave face ‘national emergency’
Pandemic puts Black, Latino families in bind
Published Sunday, April 4, 2021 2:00 am
by Nadia Ramlagan | North Carolina News Service

The American Family Plan, the Biden administration's initiative to provide relief for working families, would provide relief for working families that includes family and medical leave.

RALEIGH – The Biden administration says it will soon release its American Family Plan, aimed at providing relief for working families. The plan is expected to include a national paid family and medical leave policy, and expanded tax credits for families.

Ana Pardo - co-director of the workers' rights project at the North Carolina Justice Center - described the situation as a “national emergency.”

She pointed to Black, Latino and Indigenous women struggling to find child care during the pandemic, while losing jobs in the hardest-hit industries – especially in states like North Carolina that don't require private employers to offer leave, paid or unpaid.

“On the national stage and in certain local and statewide races, we’ve seen this issue come up again and again,” said Pardo. “I think it's really gathering steam. It's squarely on the agenda of our current president, and we're going to do our best to make sure that that is echoed here at the state level.”

She added that 80% of Black women with children in North Carolina are primary breadwinners and caregivers, and they make up about half of the state's workforce. She said it's possible the Biden administration's second spending package could include a universal 12-week paid family and medical leave policy.

Pardo pointed out more than two dozen cities and counties in the state have already implemented some form of paid leave for government workers.

“One of the things that's critical about that is that the local government is an important employer in any given landscape,” said Pardo. “And so, what they do is going to reflect on what other, private employers in the area decide to do.”

Jocelyn Frye, senior fellow with the Center for American Progress, noted that nationwide, the women’s labor force has hit a 33-year low. She said research has shown implementing universal paid leave would generate two million jobs and more than $22 billion in economic activity per year.

“I think we have to get past this notion that paid family leave, work-family policies are special, nice things to do, or extra ‘perks,’” Frye said. “These are really fundamental, core benefits that are really essential to workers.”

Major employers are also voicing their support. More than 200 U.S. companies recently signed a letter asking Congress for a comprehensive, nationwide paid family and medical leave policy.


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