Dear President Obama,
I’m the mother of an 11-year-old boy. He’s very unique, and I think he’s the best kid in the world. He has a sense of humor, he’s very caring and vibrant. We love each other very much.
Last January I missed work — I was a cashier at Whole Foods. The polar vortex had hit hard in Chicago. I found out the day before that the public schools were going to be closed because of the extreme cold. It was a public health hazard for kids to be outside and I worked during my son’s school hours. I had tried all my options for childcare, but there was no one to watch him. Seeing how my son has special needs, I couldn’t leave him home alone for 8 hours, especially seeing how cold it was. Pipes could burst – it happened in one of the neighboring buildings.
I called my job the night I realized I was coming up short on childcare and again in the morning, when I talked to my shift leader. She was very understanding. But the next day they called and told me I was being “separated” from the company for “abusing” their attendance policy. They hadn’t excused the absence, and this ultimately put me over the limit of attendance points. The tricky part about these demerits, is that they leave no leeway for emergencies that we have no control over.
To this day, and I don’t think I’ll ever change my mind, I chose what was right for my kid. I had no choice. With the economy like it is, it is really difficult for parents, especially single parents to have to choose between the wellness of our kids or jobs.
We need paid sick days – not only in Chicago but across the United States. We need to value families and we need public policy to help enforce those values. I am asking you Mr. President to support the federal Healthy Families Act, and also to ask Mayor Emanuel to actively move the Chicago Earned Sick Time Ordinance into law.
I’m also a student at Northeastern Illinois University majoring in criminal justice and social work. I hope to go into the juvenile justice system in Cook County, so that I can encourage children to stay in school and follow their dreams and never give up.
I want my son to know that I didn’t do anything wrong in this situation. I want him to know there are lots of people like Mommy. I want him and others in this situation to know it’s okay to fight for what you believe in.
There are companies that provide sick days because they value employees, which makes the workplace happy and customers happy. Guaranteeing paid sick days for all of us would be a win for business, the economy and all of us.