Dear Mr. President:
I’m writing to thank you for the support that you have shown to middle class working families throughout your presidency. Whether it’s expanding access to affordable health care, increasing job opportunities and avenues to higher education, or fighting for a fair, living wage for American workers, you and your administration have consistently stood up for working families in the United States.
As you prepare for your next State of the Union address, I hope you will continue to show this support by focusing attention on the need for national paid family leave and earned sick time legislation.
I had the honor of participating in last year’s White House Summit on Working Families, as well as a recent roundtable discussion in Newark, NJ with U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez on earned sick time, and I know that these are issues that are near to your heart. Everywhere else in the world, paid family leave and earned sick time are considered issues of basic workforce fairness and common sense, and have the fervent support of both progressive, as well as conservative, world leaders.
For me, I became a passionate advocate for programs like these when my children, 3 year-old twins Jack and Ava, were born, two and a half months premature, on June 14, 2011 – Flag Day. At birth, Jack weighed 2 lbs., 12 oz., and Ava weighed 3 lbs., 2 oz. My kids spent the first 69 days of their lives on this earth receiving world-class care in the neo-natal intensive care unit at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, NJ. They were in and out of incubators, they received treatment for infant jaundice, they had feeding tubes, and breathing tubes – they were our fragile little babies in the bubble. When we could finally take them home from the hospital, we were warned by the doctors to be careful in exposing their compromised immune systems to germs, as something as innocuous as the common cold could send them back into the hospital in respiratory distress.
All in all, we were lucky. Three years later, my kids are thriving – they consistently score higher than the height, weight and development benchmarks set for children their age. They miraculously avoided the long-term health complications which can be common for children born at 28 weeks gestation. Furthermore, we live in New Jersey, one of a handful of states that offer paid family leave for new parents and individuals taking care of sick loved ones. I credit my ability and my wife’s ability to take paid family leave to bond with and nurture our children in their first six months of life, as well as the excellent care they received in the NICU, with their success today.
Mr. President, I know that you already know this: America’s working men and women are so much more than cogs in a production line. They are fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives. They deserve to know the joy of bonding with a newborn child, and they deserve to be able to care for a sick family member in his or her time of need. They have responsibilities to their families and they shouldn’t be put in the difficult position of having to shirk those responsibilities because they cannot afford a day off from work. Please use the power of the pulpit afforded to you through the annual State of the Union address to push national paid family leave and earned sick time programs. New Jersey’s Paid Family Leave program made the difference in my young family’s life – paid family leave and earned sick time should be a right of all American working families, and not just reserved for those lucky few who live in a state where it is offered.
Thank you again for all that you have already done for America’s working families throughout your presidency, and God bless you in the years ahead.