Family Values @ Work

Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

May 9, 2010


We’ve been bombarded with ads promising the perfect gift for Mom, from chocolates and flowers to iPhones. Here’s my list of what mothers want:

The right to care for a sick child or personal illness without losing her job or creating a public health hazard. I start with paid sick days as a minimum labor standard, in honor of Monique Evans in Portland, Maine, and JoCasta Zamarripa of Milwaukee. Monique’s weekly hours at a fast- food restaurant were cut to 15 after she stayed home with her sick toddler. JoCasta, like six out of seven food service workers, has been forced to serve you flu with your soup; staying home could have cost her not only a paycheck but her job.

The right to coverage under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Half of private sector workforce employees aren’t covered by the act because they work for an employer with fewer than 50 workers, haven’t been on the job for at least 12 months or work less than 25 hours a week. We need to expand this law to all employees after 90 days of employment. I ask this in the name of Dana Wilson of Milwaukee, who lost her job because her father didn’t wait to get sick until his daughter had been on the job a year.

The right to time to care for a newborn or partner without losing her home. Many who are covered under FMLA can’t take the time because it’s unpaid. I ask for family leave insurance in the names of Selena Allen in Auburn, Wash. Selena gave birth on a Thursday to a premature son and returned to work the following Monday, saving her limited paid time for when her son came home from the hospital.

An end to maternal profiling. We need to add “family responsibility” to categories protected under anti-discrimination law. This request is in honor of Kiki Peppard of Effort, Pa., who has been fighting to change the law since she wound up on welfare because employers there wouldn’t hire a single mother.

The right to care for one’s partner even if that person is of the same gender. I add this provision in honor of Rosemary, who couldn’t be with her partner when she had surgery for breast cancer, because it didn’t qualify as a “family” medical leave. “I’d have used vacation days,” Rosemary said, “but we have to give advance notice and the cancer wasn’t considerate enough to warn us.”

The right to attend children’s school activities. This is in tribute to Diana, the child of a long-term corporate employee in Milwaukee who says the company’s demands and inflexibility meant she “never saw her mom at sporting events, had to make her own meals since the age of 8, and grew up in second place to a job.”

An end to mandatory overtime. This item is in honor of Vicki Underwood of Atlanta, who was fired after 20 years of work at an area printing plant for politely refusing to work an extra three hours because she had to register her two kids for school.

A recognition that men are parents and have parents and also need time to care.

My list flows from deeply held American values: that no one should have to risk a job to be a good family member or put a loved one at risk in order to keep a job. Mothers want basic standards that guarantee these rights to everyone.

Oh, about the chocolate, flowers, iPhones? Do deliver, kids and partners. But you could also get your mom a membership to a group that works on these issues. And make a pledge that every election, you’ll vote only for candidates who’ll ensure that family values don’t end at the workplace door.



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