Melissa Broome is being honored as a Working Family Champion of Change
It’s an all too familiar story understood by every working parent. In the wee hours of the morning, you’re jolted awake by the sound of cries on the baby monitor. Sleep deprivation is often an uninvited friend, but this time is different. The crying is different. Something is wrong.
We’ve all been there.
For me, it was an October morning. My baby girl was not quite 18-months-old. When I went in to get her, she was clammy with fever and had thrown up in her crib. I knew right away I wouldn’t be going into the office that day. I made the choice to stay home, and thank God that I did.
In a matter of hours, my daughter’s fever spiked dramatically, leading to a febrile seizure. She was in my arms when the seizure happened. She was in my arms during that terrifying ambulance ride to the hospital. She was in my arms when the doctors eventually assured me that she was going to be OK.
Nothing can prepare you for the excruciating moments of terror that come when your child faces a health emergency. Yet, looking back on that day, I know that I am one of the lucky ones. My ample supply of paid sick days meant that I didn’t think twice about staying home with my daughter.
For too many working parents across our great nation, this is not the case. When I juxtapose my experience with the experience of moms like Monica in Seattle, I am struck by the similarities and haunted by the differences. Immediately after Monica’s youngest son spiked a fever that led to a seizure, she had to decide to report to work or deal with the repercussions of not getting paid. Her choice was one that no parent should have to make.
Stories like Monica’s are happening across our country every day. Hardworking moms and dads have to choose between staying home with their sick children and earning the income they need to keep their families afloat.
In 2015, we know that in the majority of our country’s households, both parents are working outside the home. And yet, our public policies continue to reflect a 1960s mentality. We remain the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t guarantee workers the ability to earn paid sick days. Forty percent of American workers – more than 43 million people – are denied this basic workplace protection.
In my home state of Maryland, more than 700,000 workers are unable to earn a single paid sick day. We launched Working Matters: The Maryland Campaign for Paid Sick Days in 2012. Since then, we have grown to become a powerful statewide coalition of more than 135 businesses, organizations and faith groups committed to passing the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act. The legislation, which was cosponsored this year by nearly 100 members of the Maryland General Assembly, would allow workers to earn up to seven paid sick days per year.
While there are many political issues that divide the American people, we are undoubtedly united by an innate desire to care for our families. Thankfully for Monica, Seattle passed a paid sick days ordinance in 2011. Policymakers in Maryland – and throughout the country – need to follow suit.
Melissa Broome is acting executive director of the Job Opportunities Task Force (JOTF) where she helps to lead Working Matters: The Maryland Campaign for Paid Sick Days.