If you don’t like the way the world is, you change it.
You have an obligation to change it.
You just do it one step at a time.
— Marian Wright Edelman
OK, folks. This. Is. It.
Two days from now, on Thursday, the piece of New Jersey legislation I’ve written about extensively here and here — it gives all working parents paid family leave to care for their new child — comes to a vote in the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
Now is the time to again voice your support in providing all families — no matter how they are formed — the invaluable adjustment and bonding time they deserve without fearing severe financial detriment. No one should have to choose between caring for their family or supporting it. This is about embracing families and making their health and happiness a social priority. Period.
If you aren’t an adoptive parent but know one, care about one, love one, think you might one day become one — heck, have nothing to do with adoption but just think it commonsense that all new parents bringing a child into their lives, into their family, be treated equally — then this is the time to take notice. If you’re not up on the issue, read my previous essays linked above for details on the legislation, including how the paid leave actually would be financed.
And by the way: You don’t have to live in New Jersey to care about this, because it will affect you too. Read on.
Word here is, the governor’s administration and some folks in the state legislature are saying the family paid leave legislation — after decades of dying in limbo — is finally moving on a fast track and that Gov. Jon S. Corzine is pushing hard to get it to his desk for signing.
Thing is, the state’s powerful Chamber of Commerce is pushing right back. In opposition to the bill they call “onerous” and one that will “severely disrupt the operations of comapnies, as managers scramble to find and pay for replacements for workers taking time off,” they’ve got an e-mail blitz going on now to senators to try to dismantle support for the historic legislation.
We can blitz, too.
Thomas Jefferson said, “I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times.”
So, make your voice heard before Thursday — even if you did so months ago when it was first discussed here on musings:mamahood&more — now is the time to let the committee members and governor (links are below) know how imperative it is that the Garden State join ranks with California in requiring paid family leave. Although New Jersey and federal laws already allow 12 weeks’ unpaid leave, many families cannot afford that option — especially after handling extensive adoption costs. Often, adoptive parents have their children placed into their arms only to hurry back to work to pay the bills. Bonding be damned.
S-2249 would mandate up to 12 weeks’ paid leave for employees to care for a newly adopted child or an ill family member. The full text of the bill is here. And, for the first time, the leave would apply to businesses with less than 50 employees. That’s where the Chamber of Commerce is balking. Seems to me, offering such a benefit is a long-term commitment to an employee that, more often than not, the employer will see return in spades. Job satisfaction goes a long way to stem sick time and turnover.
Those of you not in New Jersey who think this won’t affect you, please consider this: Every time another state takes notice and gives its families the rights they deserve, the momentum grows. Parents everywhere should be heard. The larger the group, the louder the voice, the blurrier the state lines, the more unified the message nationwide. Your state could be next to step up and embrace today’s families.
Two days and counting. Reach out now to the Senate committee chairmen, Bernard Kenny (SenKenny@njleg.org) and Sharpe James (SenJames@njleg.org), as well as Gov. Corzine, to give your nod to the notion.
And may you find inspiration in these words from Margaret Mead:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”