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Advocates of Women Push for Paid Family Medical Leave

In cities across the country on Monday, people gathered in celebration of Women’s Equality Day. This year, the day marked 93 years since women were given the right to vote. Lots of fights have been waged during that time. Today, many are hoping to build momentum for a state law that would give workers some pay for time taken off to care for sick loved ones. Torrey Moffat is the mother of three children. One of them has special needs. She says his early years in school were difficult, because teachers did not understand how to deal with him.

“I would have to leave work. I would have to not go into work on time. From the age of K5 until he was in fourth grade, I lost four very prominent jobs,” Moffat says.

Moffat’s son is now a teen, but she says her family still feels the financial impacts of those years.

The Family Medical Leave Act gives employees who’ve been with a company at least a year 12 weeks off. You don’t receive pay unless you use vacation or sick time if you have it, though it does guarantee you still have a job for that time.

But that’s not good enough says Lannice Vickers. She’s an organizer with the Milwaukee branch of the women’s advocacy group, 9 to 5.

“We can make it better. Families shouldn’t have to struggle with the necessities of paying their rent, utilities, or food, they shouldn’t have to go through the trouble of worrying about that if they take off from work and lose a day’s pay,” Vickers says.

Five years ago, 9 to 5 pushed for an ordinance in Milwaukee that required employers to give up to nine paid sick days. Voters approved the idea but the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce files suit. It argued the law would hurt job creation and drive up the cost of doing business here.  In 2011, a circuit court judge struck down the sick time law.  Now, 9 to 5 is urging state lawmakers to pass a bill that would require companies to provide some paid family medical leave. The MMAC could not be reached.

Several Democratic law makers attended the Women’s Equality Day event in Milwaukee, including Rep. Christine Sinicki.  She says says she supports paid family medical leave but now is not the time to introduce legislation in Wisconsin.

“You know, given the politics, the political landscape of the state of Wisconsin, like I said, it’s not going to happen this year or next year, but it will happen,” Sinicki says.

So far, four states have passed laws requiring pay when workers take off to care for sick loved ones. In California, workers are eligible to receive 55 percent of their pay for six weeks as long has they’ve paid into the state’s disability insurance fund.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.