Family Values @ Work

Maleni – Caring for Each Other Without Debt and Stress

Maleni – Caring for Each Other Without Debt and Stress

May 22, 2017

As a recent college graduate with a degree in criminal justice and criminology, Maleni Mendoza Garcia combined her job search with the fight for paid sick days. She became involved with a community group called Take Action MN, and as a result, she’s been part of successful campaigns in both Minneapolis and St. Paul. Maleni cherishes what these wins will mean for herself, her mother, and these two large communities.

“While I was in school my health started to deteriorate. I had to ask, should I pay for a meal or for tuition?” Maleni said. Often she had no choice but to pay tuition and find food that was unhealthy or skip meals. Later that year she knew something serious was happening. A hospital visit revealed she was experiencing gall bladder attacks. Because her jobs were part-time positions, she didn’t have paid sick days. She started accumulating a lot of debt.

In Maleni’s last semester of college, her mother, a janitor in Minneapolis, wound up in the ER and needed surgery. Like Maleni, her mother had no paid sick days. “The illness took a toll on us financially and emotionally,” Maleni said. “It was my last semester of college and I had to think about what was going on at home. That’s why I got involved with the paid sick days campaign. I thought, how can I contribute so people can take care of themselves without being too stressed out and worrying about retaliation from an employer?”

Maleni is delighted about the wins and the fact that the new laws will cover part-time employees. “This will definitely change a lot of the circumstances people are dealing with,” she said. “Often people have to put their health to the side and not focus on what’s going on in the moment, and that leads to long-term issues. That’s what happened to me. I’m still recovering today.”

For Maleni, paid sick days means that more students will be healthy, not have to drop out of school and be able to graduate on time. People talk about the importance of education, without realizing the impact of lacking affordable time to get well. And for low-wage workers like her mother, paid sick days can be the key to keeping a job and staying afloat.

Says Maleni, “Paid sick days will ensure that families can care for each other without debt and stress.”

FACT: The percentage of workers with paid sick days has grown from 61% to 64%. The increase was driven almost entirely by increased access in low-wage jobs.