By Jenya Cassidy, Project Director, California Work & Family Coalition
I was honored to be named a “Community Hero” at the 10th anniversary of the Bay Area Parent Leadership Action Network (PLAN) – an organization that has worked for more than a decade to improve Oakland low income public schools by increasing parent involvement. PLAN trains and gives parents the tools to advocate for their children and influence decision making in the school district. At the January 29th anniversary party, PLAN members recognized community leaders whose work supports the goal of building “parent power” in Oakland public schools.
PLAN leaders highlighted my work leading the California Work & Family Coalition in fighting for family friendly jobs. For 10 years, Coalition organizations have helped pass laws that expand the rights of parents and caregivers in the workplace. Children thrive when their parents make a living wage, have access to paid family leave, paid sick days, and have predictable and flexible schedules to be there when their family needs them. Work family balance makes a huge difference to school children: Studies show that children do better in school when their parents can take an active role in their education. Yet, with changing employer hiring and scheduling practices in food service and retail industries, this can be harder than ever for a growing number of California working parents.
Not only our children, but our schools and communities thrive when parents have time to be informed and involved. Yet, for parents working two or more jobs with unpredictable schedules, it can be a challenge to see kids at night and check homework let alone make it to a PTA meeting or a gardening day. It’s easy to see how making change in the workplace has a ripple effect on students, schools and communities.
The PLAN anniversary event celebrated the impact community activism has on our children and our schools. I was proud to share the stage with organizers and leaders including Clarissa Doutherd from Parent Voices, Juan Vera from the Youth Law Academy at Centro Legal de la Raza, Gregory Hodge, whose work supports the Boys and Men of Color Initiative, and Tammy Johnson, a speaker on race equity and co-founder of Your Body Raks belly dance. These leaders spoke from the heart, sharing a belief that building parent power is the way to create thriving schools and communities.
It takes courage and tenacity to make a difference. At the anniversary event, Tammy Johnson, from Raks belly dance, gave a fun demonstration of courage and tenacity by teaching the audience to shimmy. She said “this is what it’s like to build Parent Power: You have to stay grounded while you learn to shake things up!”
Our fates were entwined from the start! I first met Netsy Firestein, in 1993, a year after founding the 1199SEIU/Employer Child Care Fund. She contacted me to express her joy upon learning about the first Childcare Fund negotiated in the country. I was thrilled! Someone heard about us, from clear across the country and she founded an organization that bridged labor and public policy to capture our collective imaginations around what was truly possible for families in America.
We raised our organizations, together.
In those days, the Labor Project was the only non-profit on the block focusing on work and family issues through a labor lens. Their newsletter included success stories on contract wins: paid family leave, paid sick days, shift swapping, telecommuting, domestic partnership language and so much more. It was and remains the vanguard – for work and family labor policy ideas.
In the years that followed, a true friendship was forged out of deep respect for our common goals. The Labor Project’s monumental win of California’s Paid Family Leave law raised the bar high. Together, with the CA State Federation, they built a coalition that was broad, diverse, democratic in structure and highly successful. It became the California Work and Family Coalition that continues to fight for legislation to expand paid family leave, guarantee healthcare for pregnant women and lay the groundwork for a state paid sick days bill.
The Coalition’s impressive success set the stage for the innovative Family Values@Work which is a network of 21 state coalitions that have won work and family victories, like: paid family leave in NJ, paid sick days in Connecticut, DC, Seattle, and Portland. There are many other campaigns on the horizon. Alignment with the labor movement remains strong and critical to its continued success.
As a former National Advisory Board member of the Labor Project, Board member of Family Values @ Work and national policy director it’s with true excitement and hope for the future that I bear witness to the changes about to happen. Netsy will move on to a different role in our movement, the Labor Project will function in partnership with Family Values@Work and I will be its National Director.
These are huge shoes to fill. But have no doubt, the Labor Project will remain a resource for unions and community groups that aim to win work and family policies: paid sick leave, paid family leave, expanded FMLA, and the range of economic policy issues that strengthen our families and our economy. We will win them at the bargaining table, in local ordinances, at the state level and in the federal arena.
This summer, on July 26th, the Labor Project celebrates 20 years and the transition with a symposium and fiesta called “It’s About Time”. More information to buy tickets, an ad or just spread the word is at www.working-families.org
What was true 20 years ago remains true today. The Labor Project exists for all workers whose fates are tied together, one family at a time.
In solidarity and with hope for the future,
National Policy Director
Labor Project for Working Families
By Alanna Ritchie, content writer, Debt.org
Life can catch you off guard, and while California’s Paid Family Leave Act provides partial wage repayment, it may not cover all the expenses you accrue during the time you are away from work. You could end up surrounded by overwhelming debt.
The cost of providing for yourself, a pregnant family member, a sudden illness or becoming a caregiver is high. It requires more than the legal provisions of job tenure and future financial security. You can protect yourself and your loved ones by avoiding these debt pitfalls.
Forgetting to Create an Emergency Fund
Don’t wait until emergencies strike to see if you have enough money to squeeze by. A good provider is always ready for unexpected situations, such a becoming sick or pregnant.
Financial experts recommend setting up an emergency fund with a starting balance of $1,000. Once you meet that goal, work toward having three to six months of living expenses set aside.
These savings will help cover the gap of lost income for the time you miss work. The more you save, the better position you’ll be in to cover medical expenses that will likely exceed your normal monthly budget.
Relying on Credit
Without an emergency fund, people who are financially stressed often make the mistake of relying on credit cards. After a few months, they find themselves quickly immersed in credit card debt.
The accumulation of credit card debt begins with groceries, gas and small expenditures. It can quickly escalate when you start using credit cards to make payments for cell phone bills, insurance and rent.
Depending on credit cards to supplement your income might seem like a short-term solution to making payments, especially if you expect your family leave to be.
Unfortunately, by the time you return to work, you may find that your income no longer covers monthly payments. You’ll also start paying interest on the balance, making financial recovery a difficult and long-term process.
Remember that skipping payments for a long period of time, without a plan to crawl out of debt, is a costly mistake you want to avoid.
Whether it’s credit card debt or a loan you are trying to pay off, there are some situations where you simply cannot make ends meet.
These types of debt circumstances can debilitate you, but there are options. Do research about qualifying for debt settlement or loan consolidation programs — which can offer you more time to pay off debt, and in some cases, reduce the overall amount you owe.
Make a decision on the program that works for you.
Staying out of debt can be incredibly difficult, especially when the well-being of your family is on the line.
You can regain control of your finances by putting together an emergency fund, avoiding a dependency on credit cards, missing payments and other dangerous habits. While we cannot plan when emergency will strike or its effect on our families, we can take measures to always be prepared.
Alanna Ritchie writes about personal finance and little smart ways to spend (and save) money. Alanna has an English degree from Rollins College.