#FamilyFirstFridays: What’s At Stake

 In #FamilyFirstFridays, Paid Family Leave, Washington, DC

This is a guest post by Lindsay, who will otherwise remain anonymous to avoid employer retaliation for her health conditions.

As a young woman with two incurable autoimmune diseases, my life is already pretty hard. This year alone, I have endured one hospitalization, two biopsies, two colonoscopies, and five IV drug infusions. Juggling my medical appointments is practically a part-time job. Did I mention that I also work full-time while pursuing a Ph.D? Sometimes I am frightened by my illnesses, but I am more frightened that I won’t be able to pay my bills and my rent at the same time. One thing that eases my burden is knowing that DC residents will soon be able to access paid family and medical leave.

A condition called primary sclerosing cholangitis is slowly destroying my liver, and I will need a transplant within the next decade. It is a grim future. I dread that moment—not just because I might die, but because I will be incapacitated for months. That means not being able to work and, most likely, no income. I will need to rely on my partner, my parents, and my siblings to care for me, both physically and financially, during weeks of critical illness and difficult recovery. Paid family and medical leave will make this possible.

Under DC’s current legislation, my partner will be able to take six weeks of paid leave to care for me. That will cover my operation and the most difficult period of recovery. He won’t have to decide between paying the mortgage and sitting beside my hospital bed while I’m close to death. I am so grateful that all DC residents will soon have this opportunity, whether they are dealing with a sick spouse, parent, or young child. Paid family and medical leave is compassionate and humane, but it also protects the economic well-being of the city. Guaranteed paid leave helps stave off bankruptcy, foreclosure, and homelessness for those families, like mine, who face daunting medical challenges. It also provides an incentive for families to stay attached to the DC workforce rather than moving or working elsewhere.

I have lived in Washington, DC for eight years. However, I just took a temporary job in California and I don’t know if I’ll be coming back. DC is my chosen home, but California’s paid family and medical leave program is far more generous than DC’s in many aspects: in California, I could take up to ONE WHOLE YEAR of paid medical leave; birth mothers in California can take anywhere from 12-18 weeks of paid leave when welcoming a new child at up to 70% of their regular pay. And with more and more states following in California’s footsteps of implementing strong paid family and medical leave insurance programs, access to paid leave will be a very strong consideration in planning my life and where I eventually settle down. I need to prioritize states that prioritize my family’s well-being.

It has been heartbreaking to see so many leaders in DC attack and seek to undermine paid leave over the past few years, and especially in recent months. DC’s working families need solutions, not barriers, to caring for their health and their families. I urge the District government to prioritize implementing and expanding paid leave as quickly as possible. Moreover, I hope that voters will continue to support this important law. Serious illness is a heartbreaking reality, but DC’s paid leave insurance program makes the future a little brighter for everyone.

Early voting is open District-wide today and there is a lot at stake for DC’s working families. Find your nearest early vote site at earlyvoting.dcboe.org.

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