Hundreds of activists and supporters from the women’s, congressional, legal, health, labor, civil rights and other communities turned out to help the National Partnership for Women & Families honor two remarkable leaders today: U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez and Care.com CEO Sheila Lirio Marcelo. The event was held at the Washington Hilton Hotel.
Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership told the audience there has been tremendous progress toward a more healthy, fair and family friendly America. “More people have paid sick days and health insurance than ever before,” she said, “but whether you have basic benefits still depends on where you live and what job you hold, and that must change.”
“Secretary Perez is a true champion for America’s workers, leading the boldest action in support of family friendly workplace policies the country has seen in a generation,” Ness said, “and Sheila Lirio Marcelo is an ally and a hero who does a tremendous amount to advance our work. She is a passionate and remarkable person who built a global business on the brilliant idea that she could use technology to help families solve their care challenges. We are fortunate to have such determined voices for economic justice by our side.”
Secretary Perez has fought to advance equal opportunity throughout his career. For the past two years, he has served as U.S. Secretary of Labor and key partner in implementing President Obama’s domestic policy agenda. The administration is establishing new workplace standards that benefit millions of people, helping foster adoption of paid sick days laws, seeding state innovation on paid family and medical leave, combating discrimination, and improving wages and benefits for all workers.
Sheila Lirio Marcelo started Care.com in 2006. The company is the world’s largest online destination for finding and managing family care. She has long been an advocate for women in business and for supportive workplace policies, especially for caregivers. At today’s event, she announced for the first time the company’s endorsement of the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which would establish a national paid leave program.
Secretary Perez and Lirio Marcelo discussed their personal and professional commitment to building a future in which working people no longer have to choose between job and family, and everyone has access to the support and care they need and deserve.
Other speakers at the event were Ellen Malcolm, chairwoman of the boards of directors of EMILY’s List and the National Partnership, and The Washington Post’s Petula Dvorak, who emceed the event.
Ness discussed the many ways in which the National Partnership’s more than four decades of work to improve the lives of women and families are paying off. She praised the Obama administration for prioritizing fair and family friendly workplaces and quality, affordable health care, congressional supporters for finding innovative ways to support families, companies for stepping up to improve policies for their employees and communities, and advocates and working people across the country for fighting for change in their states and communities.
But Ness also emphasized the importance of sustaining recent momentum to secure lasting policy and culture change. “We deserve a culture that supports, not punishes, us when we are sick,” she said. “A culture that is ready for the tsunami of elder care needs bearing down on us. Just hoping employers won’t be heartless – just hoping the health care system will work – is no way to cope with life’s challenges and life’s crises. And until we realize that, neither families nor businesses – nor the country – will truly thrive.”