By Cindia Cameron, 9to5 National Organizing Director
The year was 1989 and my daughter Kyla was 6 months old. 9to5 Atlanta led a coalition of labor and community organizations working to pass Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) legislation for state employees in Georgia. Kyla attended her first press event at the launch of that campaign. The newspaper coverage described her as our ‘gimmick’. We continued to fight at the state level, and our bill passed two years before the national law.
For nearly a decade 9to5 was also a leader in the national campaign to pass FMLA through Congress. It was the first law signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Since that year, working people have used the law more than 200 million times to take unpaid time off work to care for new children or seriously ill loved ones, or to address their own serious health issue.
This year, Kyla turns 29 and FMLA turns 24. That hard-won victory is one I’m especially proud of — but we always knew that unpaid leave was only the first step. As it currently stands, about 40% of workers aren’t eligible for FMLA. Even among those who are eligible, unpaid leave is just not accessible to so many low-wage workers who need it.
All these years later, we’re still fighting for paid family and medical leave insurance. I’ve celebrated with California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island as they’ve passed statewide laws, and I’m excited for New York, DC, and Washington State to implement new paid family and medical leave policies over the next few years. With all the work 9to5 and our partners have put into calling attention to this need, we’ve also seen an increasing number of workplaces offer paid leave policies – although the fact still remains that just 14% of workers have paid family leave through their employers.
But at the end of the day, access to paid leave shouldn’t depend on where you live or work. I’m proud to say that Kyla has continued her concern for healthy families by beginning her training as a Physician Assistant this year. Both of us are committed to ensuring that Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance passes – in cities and states across the country, and finally as a national law – so that no worker has to choose between the job they need and the family they love.
Support 9to5 today by making a donation in honor of someone who paved the way for you, or in honor of a young person whose future you’re fighting for!