As so many Americans are still struggling to care for themselves and their loved ones and stay afloat economically, the 2022 State of the Union represents a critical opportunity for President Biden to address the nation and make a rousing call for the comprehensive set of policies we need to advance justice and economic security for working women, caregivers, and families.
We applaud President Biden for making a commitment to do just that by highlighting the urgent need for a comprehensive, permanent paid family and medical leave program. As the President points out, nearly four of five private sector workers – and 90 percent of the lowest wage workers – have no access to paid family leave. The President promises to “call on Congress to pass comprehensive paid family and medical leave legislation so millions of American workers can take time to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill loved one or heal from their own serious illness.” Paid family and medical leave will protect the lives and livelihoods of millions of workers and their families, as well as bolster public health and our country’s economic recovery as a whole.
We also hope to see President Biden address other critical legislation that awaits passage in Congress and would make an immediate world of difference for workers, especially for mothers of color, who too often face discrimination in the workplace, including during pregnancy. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which has sweeping bipartisan support, is primed and ready for immediate passage. This bill would help ensure pregnant workers aren’t forced off the job or forced to risk their health because they are denied accommodations, and is a critical component of our nation’s economic recovery amidst a mass exodus of women from the workforce.
While the American Rescue Plan provided important temporary measures to help families stay afloat, the President has a mandate from the American people to not only provide relief, but to create a true, permanent safety net by transforming our system of work and care. In addition to calling for paid family and medical leave and stronger legal protections for pregnant workers, we also hope the President will do everything in his power to ensure Congress passes laws like the Healthy Families Act to provide paid sick time, the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act to increase the rights of breastfeeding workers, the Schedules that Workers Act to put a stop to abusive employer scheduling practices, and the Part Time Workers Bill of Rights.
The pandemic has only revealed the longstanding inequities that we must address with permanent, systemic change. We thank the President for remaining steadfast in his commitment to establishing a comprehensive paid family and medical leave program and calling on Congress to act in tonight’s speech. With workers, families, and lawmakers across the country watching, we hope President Biden seizes this important opportunity to call for sweeping change for our most vulnerable workers and caregivers, who have been waiting far too long for our workplace laws to recognize their everyday reality.