We Must All Become Advocates

| Dec 20, 2013

At the National Partnership, we want all families to be healthy and to be able to support their children’s needs. That’s why I was so honored and grateful for the chance to speak to practitioners, researchers, educators and parents who are on the front lines of early childhood development at ZERO TO THREE’s 28th National Training Institute (NTI) last week. As I reflect on the energizing conference and the great progress and challenges for women and families this year, I’m struck by the urgent need for us all to become advocates.

As I told NTI attendees, we have come a long way since I first began this work. With laws like the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act on the books for decades, and both policy and cultural changes that have helped to make workplaces more family friendly, we know that change really is possible. But there is no denying just how far we still have to go.

What does it say about our country, for example, that the birth of a child can put a family on a path to poverty that takes years to escape? That women are still paid just 77 cents for every dollar paid to men? That two in five workers in this country cannot take a single paid sick day? And that just 12 percent of workers have paid family leave through their employers? Nothing good.

Our workplaces have not kept pace with changes in our society. We lag far behind the rest of the world when it comes to establishing family friendly workplace policies. And families are suffering as a result. Our public policy failures result in families in need, communities not operating at full strength, businesses facing unnecessary strains, and our country and our economy suffering.

But history shows us that advocacy can change all of that. And that is why we must all commit – or recommit – to becoming advocates. The good news is that there is a clear policy agenda at which we can direct our energy.

The Healthy Families Act would establish a much-needed national paid sick days standard. The Paycheck Fairness Act would help combat gender-based pay discrimination. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would help to ensure women are not forced out of their jobs when they need pregnancy-related accommodations at work. And the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act would establish a long overdue national paid family and medical leave insurance program.

No legislation would do more to make this a family friendly nation than the FAMILY Act. It was introduced in Congress for the first time last week with the support of a broad and diverse coalition of more than 400 organizations, led by the National Partnership. ZERO TO THREE is an active member of the coalition, and we were proud to join together to release a new fact sheet on the child development case for the FAMILY Act, which is available here.

At the conference, ZERO TO THREE and MomsRising partnered to demonstrate the “power of ONEsie” by encouraging attendees to decorate baby onesies to show their support for the FAMILY Act and a family friendly America. The result was a compelling visual representation of the people who need and benefit from public policies that keep people from having to choose between job and family. And it emphasized the power of coming together to take action.

We can – and will – continue to make progress toward a more fair and family friendly nation by winning the fight for policies like the FAMILY Act. But it’s going to take hard work. And we must all become advocates. In the coming year and beyond, let’s all do everything we can to ensure the kind of change the country needs.

You can take action to help advance the FAMILY Act here.