MEDIA ADVISORY: Local Children, State Lawmakers Celebrate 20th Birthday of the Family Medical Leave Act, Highlight Need to Fill Gaps

WHO: NC Families Care Coalition, NC MomsRising, NC Justice Center, and more than a dozen organizations
WHAT: A 20th Birthday Celebration of the Family Medical Leave Act and Recognition of NC’s champions of working families
WHERE: Marbles Kids Museum in Downtown Raleigh
WHEN: Tuesday, September 24, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Press conference begins at 10:10 a.m.

RALEIGH (September 23, 2013) — Children, families, and North Carolina lawmakers will be coming together on Tuesday, September 24, from 10-12 pm at Marbles Kids Museum for a giant birthday party to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Family Medical Leave Act and to honor North Carolina lawmakers who have been champions in working to close the gaps that still remain.

At the party, families and lawmakers will celebrate with cake, crafts, and games as well as hearing from those who have benefitted from FMLA and those who have struggled because they did not qualify to be covered. NC Representative Alma Adams, Representative Larry Hall, Senator Angela Bryant, former Senator Ellie Kinnaird, and a representative from US Senator Kay Hagan’s office will join the celebration and be honored as champions of North Carolina’s working families.

It’s been 20 years since President Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) into law. Two decades ago, the first and only national law written specifically to help workers meet the dual responsibilities of family and work passed with strong bi-partisan support and has been used over 100 million times by working men and women to take leave when welcoming a new child into the family, caring for a seriously ill family member, or recovering from an illness. The FMLA ensures that those who are eligible, during pivotal moments in their lives, will know that their job will be waiting for them.  A crucial piece of the legislation ensures that workers can’t be fired for taking leave.

While the FMLA was a landmark for meeting the needs of our nation’s working families, this anniversary also reminds us of how far we have left to go. Only half of our country’s workforce is eligible under the FMLA.  It only applies to employers with 50 or more employees and only covers employees who have worked at their workplace for at least one year. And it doesn’t cover workers who need to take care of extended family members such as their grandchildren.

All of these restrictions translate into only about one in five new mothers being covered by the law. People of color and young adults in their child-bearing years, many of whom are exactly the workers who most need job protected leave, are less likely to be covered. And many workers simply can’t afford to use the FMLA. Many families in North Carolina are living paycheck to paycheck and don’t have the option of taking unpaid time off.  Research shows that almost 8 out of 10 workers who are eligible can’t afford to take unpaid leave.

“The FMLA has had a tremendous impact on the lives of North Carolina’s working families. But without expansion, many are unable to put family first. We need to expand the protections of FMLA so family leave becomes more accessible,” said Beth Messersmith, NC Campaign Director for MomsRising.org.
The FMLA was always meant to be a first step, and fortunately states are stepping up to fill in the gaps. In North Carolina, the Caregiver Relief Act was reintroduced in the 2013 session. The Act would allow workers to take unpaid leave to care for their siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, stepparents, or parents-in law.

“Today’s reality is that we are a state of working family caregivers. There are 1.2 million family caregivers in North Carolina who provide care for older and disabled adults. And North Carolina ranks 6th in the nation in the number of children cared for by their grandparents. It’s time to fill the gaps to ensure that all workers can fulfill their family responsibilities without falling out of the workforce,” said Sabine Schoenbach, co-chair of NC Families Care, a coalition of over 35 organizations leading the effort to make North Carolina more family-friendly.

The event is sponsored by NC Families Care Coalition, NC MomsRising, NC Justice Center, AAUW NC, Action NC, Action for Children, the Arc of North Carolina, Covenant with North Carolina’s Children, Disability Rights NC, NC Health Access Coalition, MS Society: Greater Carolinas Chapter, North Carolina AFL-CIO, North Carolina Council of Churches, NC Women Matter, NC Women United, Women AdvaNCe, Caring Across Generations, and Family Values at Work.

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MomsRising.org is an online and on-the-ground grassroots organization of more than a million people who are working to achieve economic security for all families in the United States. MomsRising is working for paid family leave, flexible work options, affordable childcare, and for an end to the wage and hiring discrimination which penalizes so many others. MomsRising also advocates for health care for all, toxic-free environments, and breastfeeding rights so that all children can have a healthy start. Established in 2006, MomsRising and its members are organizing and speaking out to improve public policy and to change the national dialogue on issues that are critically important to America’s families. In 2012, Forbes.com named MomsRising’s web site as one of the Top 100 Websites For Women for the third year in a row. In 2013, Working Mother magazine included MomsRising on its “Best of the Net” list.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Beth Messersmith, (919) 323-6179, Beth@momsrising.org.
 

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