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FV@W Awards ‘Game-Changer’ Awards for Paid Sick Days, Family Leave Advocacy

December 8, 2014

Contact: Alex Edwards, alex.edwards@berlinrosen.com, 202.800.8691

(New York) – Family Values @ Work today announced the recipients of its annual Game Changer Awards, given to five individuals who helped make 2014 a monumental year for paid sick days and family and medical leave insurance. Emblematic of FV@W’s 21 diverse state coalitions, the recipients span the fields of business, labor, policy, and community advocacy. The winners are as follows:

  • Secretary of Labor Tom Perez (Policy Champion Award)
  • Denver activist Shelby Ramirez-Martinez (Activist Champion Award)
  • Melanie Campbell, President and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (Community Partner Award)
  • Harris Gruman of SEIU State Council MA (Labor Champion Award)
  • Cynthia DiBartolo, CEO Tigress Financial Partners LLC (Business Champion Award)

The awards come just weeks after a historic election for paid sick days, as voters in four locations – the state of Massachusetts; Montclair and Trenton, New Jersey; and Oakland, California – all passed ballot initiatives guaranteeing workers paid time off to care for themselves or a sick family member. In 2014 alone, the number of locations with paid sick days has nearly tripled and the number of workers who will have access to paid sick days has increased five-fold.

“It’s because of individuals like Sec. Perez, Shelby, Melanie, Harris and Cynthia that momentum behind policies that help working families is at an all time high,” said Ellen Bravo, director of FV@W. “Each of the five winners embodies what it means to be a game-changer, combining their courageous voices, unparalleled passion, and smart organizing to improve countless American lives. They – and thousands others – are the backbone of FV@W, and it’s an honor to work alongside them.”

The Recipients

Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez

Sec. Perez has been essential in bringing national attention to paid sick days and family and medical leave insurance, giving impassioned speeches around the country, writing poignantly as a father, husband and son about the importance of families and paid time off, and expanding programs that invest in states to help foster innovation and promote paid leave programs. Because of his leadership, more elected officials nationwide are seeing these issues for what they are: good policy and winning politics.

Shelby Ramirez-Martinez

Shelby Ramirez-Martinez’s 2014 included numerous news articles, a major video appearance and even a lunch with the President because of her courageous activism. As a mother of two, hotel worker and full-time college student, Shelby has shared her story of having to take unpaid time off to care for family members during serious health crises – situations that were nearly financially devastating for her family, but that also showed her the importance of organizing for new workplace standards. Now, she’s a leader with 9to5, FV@W’s anchor group in Colorado, and is busy leafleting, testifying and engaging other workers in the fight for a state paid family leave program.

“FV@W and 9to5 Colorado have made it possible for my story and the story of families like mine to come to the attention of national lawmakers,” said Ramirez-Martinez. “They’ve given me the courage to come forth and address the importance of not putting families in a financial crisis for simply choosing to take of their loved ones. Our families deserve to be taken care of by a loved one, now and in the future.”.

Melanie Campbell

Melanie has worked with FV@W and other partners to integrate work and family policy issues into the core civil rights agenda of chapters of the Black Women’s Roundtable. These groups are helping magnify the voices of Black women speaking out for paid leave and other issues on the women’s economic security agenda. Bringing her considerable and proven political and civic engagement skills to this work, Mel is growing the base of women who will change the landscape of our nation to one that truly values families.

“Building a new alliance between Family Values @ Work and the Black Women’s Roundtable, nationally and in the states, has been a great pleasure,” said Campbell. “I am looking forward to working even closer with FV@W to elevate the movement for pay equity, paid sick days and other family-friendly workplace policies across the country. The fight to establish workplace standards that address the needs of 21st century families is a personal priority for me so this recognition by Family Values @ Work is an extremely meaningful honor.”

Harris Gruman

Massachusetts’s recent paid sick days victory owes a lot to the organizing and political savvy of Harris Gruman. More than a year ago, Harris recognized that the fight for a higher minimum wage and a minimum amount of earned sick time need to complement, not compete with each other. Together with Deb Fastino and other local leaders, he helped create Raise Up Massachusetts, one coalition leading two intertwined campaigns. Harris helped persuade labor and political leaders to support this fight and helped develop an unstoppable ground game – one that will ultimately change the lives of nearly a million Massachusetts workers.

“Massachusetts just won the most comprehensive statewide earned sick time policy in America,” said Gruman. “This victory will benefit nearly one million workers, many of them parents and single heads of households, and it reflects years of planning, technical assistance and funding from Family Values @ Work for our coalition of labor, community and faith partners that led the campaign in the state. It’s an honor to be recognized – and join FV@W in this fight so that all states can pass similar paid sick days laws.”

Cynthia DiBartolo

Cynthia DeBartolo is a business leader in New York City who understands that creating a statewide – and eventually a national – paid family leave insurance fund is the smart and the right thing to do. Her powerful testimony about the care she received from her father during a serious personal illness has resonated with decision-makers and opinion leaders. She’s drawn on that experience and her professional expertise to reach out to other business leaders to join her in supporting this vital public policy change.

“On behalf of the Greater New York Chamber of Commerce and the Business and Labor Coalition of New York, we truly appreciate the work that Family Values @ Work does on the front lines of the struggle to ensure that working families have the rights, services, and opportunities that they have earned and deserve,” said DiBartolo. “We are especially impressed by, and supportive of, their efforts this past year fighting for, and protecting, paid sick days and paid family leave insurance. There is no question that earned sick days provide the work-life balance that both women and men need to be productive at home and at the job.  Moreover, policies that aid employees and families strengthen our economy and when the men and women of this great country succeed and do better, our nation does better.”

Family Values @ Work is a network of coalitions in 21 states that organize for paid sick days and paid family leave. See more at www.familyvaluesatwork.org.