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The White House Recognizes Paid Sick Days Champions

National Partnership Staff | April 17, 2015

Closing out a week of attention to families’ economic security, the Obama administration paid special tribute yesterday to state and local “champions of change” who are making a real difference in communities and workplaces across the country. Among them were several paid sick days advocates whose dedication and victories are paving the way for national level progress.

White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett welcomed the small crowd, and Labor Secretary Tom Perez offered inspiring opening remarks. After two panels featuring the 12 champions and administration officials, President Obama addressed the group. He praised the honorees for their commitment to making life better for working families, for creating “models and templates” for success across the country, and for “showing us what is possible.”

Analilia Mejia, executive director of the New Jersey Working Families Alliance, and Andrea Paluso, executive director of Family Forward Oregon, are two champions who are primed and working hard to build on local paid sick days progress. Mejia is helping secure a statewide standard in New Jersey after winning laws in nine cities that will benefit more than 150,000 workers. And Paluso led campaigns that resulted in paid sick days laws in Portland and Eugene. The focus is now on a statewide standard for Oregon.

Similarly, Coraminita Mahr, vice president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, was part of Time to Care, the coalition that helped win paid sick days for more than one million workers in New York City. And under Melissa Broome’s leadership, the Job Opportunities Task Force in Maryland co-founded Working Matters, a coalition of 135 organizations (and growing!) to advance a statewide paid sick days bill.

But advocates were not the only paid sick days change makers the administration recognized. Satya Nadella of Microsoft and Rose Marcario of Patagonia were hailed for being large employers that are leading by example by providing paid sick days and paid family and medical leave. And small business owners Randy George, founder of The Red Hen Baking Company in Vermont, and Fatima Hasan, owner and director of Places and Spaces for Growth Learning Center in Philadelphia, were recognized for their strong policies and paid sick days advocacy.

And paid sick days weren’t the only policy highlighted. Netsy Firestein, senior fellow at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley, played a leading role in winning paid family leave in California. And David Deary, a parent, is an advocate for Rhode Island’s paid family leave program, which meant a tremendous amount to him and his wife when their son passed away.

As executive director of the North Dakota Women’s Network, Renee Stromme led the group’s successful efforts to win a law guaranteeing reasonable workplace accommodations for pregnant women. And Iowa small business owner ReShonda Young has long fought for fair pay and other policies that support working families.

These champions are just a few of the people who are working tirelessly at the local, state and national levels to secure workplaces that are more fair and family friendly. As President Obama said: “We shouldn’t have to choose between rewarding work and raising a family. And we’ve got to fight for that change.” That’s certainly what the paid sick days movement is all about. Let’s keep the change coming.

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