Safiyyah remembers walking by a NJ Citizen Action table at a NJ Black Issues Convention, where she was receiving an award for peer support to parents of kids with special needs, and the word “SICK” caught her eye. Saffiyah knew and trusted that organization. She thought the plan for Earned Sick Days was ingenious, and shared a story of taking her sick child on two buses to work “because I was afraid of losing my job. Nearly 20 years later, not much had changed. As a wife and a mother of children with disabilities, I would always go to work sick because I knew I’d lose wages.”
Safiyyah became involved in the Earned Sick Days campaign, speaking out at city council meetings in Newark and East Orange and participating in a round table discussion with Labor Secretary Tom Perez. Says Safiyyah, “I carry brochures and pamphlets in my minivan and share them with friends and family and at every meeting I attend. I also hit the streets.” And she uses social media extensively.
“We have great friends in our legislators who have helped to get municipal ordinances passed,” Safiyyah noted. “Yet, it is just as important for the American people to lend their voices.” Recently she got a job with a local non-profit in East Orange, where earned sick days passed. “This is the first time, in thirty years in the workforce, that I have earned sick days. I was ecstatic. I felt a sense of security, relief and assurance.”
Her activism is spilling over, Safiyyah says. “Friends and family members say that, like me, they need to get more involved in their communities.”