On April 1, A Better Balance hosted a convening event, “An Unprecedented Crisis of Care: Building Better Workplace Policies for Working Families,” with our partners at Better Life Lab. The event brought together workers, caregivers, business experts, thought leaders, and work-family justice advocates to discuss the challenges facing working families, and how we can work together to push forward the innovative policy solutions we need.
The first panel, “Putting Front Line Workers Front and Center,” highlighted worker leadership in the fight for work-family justice, featuring several workers A Better Balance has connected with and assisted through our free legal helpline, and have partnered with as they use their voices in the fight for change.
Tasha Murrell, a Tennessee-based, former warehouse worker at a national logistics company, spoke about the unjust treatment she received from her employer during her pregnancy. Despite receiving a doctor’s note saying she needed a lifting restriction and complaining of extreme stomach pain, she was forced to continue lifting on the job. One day, she told a supervisor she was in pain and asked to leave early; the manager said no. Tragically, she had a miscarriage the next day. “Pregnant women need reasonable accommodations right now. it can be life or death. We need policies and safety nets that support women,” said Murrell.
We also heard from Dreama James, a Georgia-based, fast food worker, who shared her experience lacking care for her son when his elementary school closed due to covid. She exhausted the 12 weeks of federal emergency paid leave she had available to her, and asked her employer if her son could come with her to work while he did his remote schooling. She was told that the restaurant was “not a daycare.” She and her family could not afford to lose her income, leaving her in an impossible bind. “It shouldn’t be that we have to choose between our families and our jobs. Our children come first,” she said.
Finally, Virginia James, a current A Better Balance client who lives in South Carolina, shared her story of being fired from her job at Walmart after accumulating too many “points” due to absences related to her disability. She had worked there for ten years. “It was the most hurtful thing in the world… the point system is cruel, especially to those who work very hard,” said James.
We are grateful to Tasha, Dreama, and Virginia for sharing their stories and calling for change. It is an honor to fight alongside them.
Following excellent remarks from Council of Economic Advisers’ Heather Boushey and Center for American Progress’ Jocelyn Frye, the second panel, “How Federal Law is Failing Working Families & How We Move Forward,” featured experts from A Better Balance, New America, UnidosUS, Bright Start Early Care & Preschool, and the US Chamber of Commerce. The discussion centered around how we can center the lived experiences of workers and caregivers in our policymaking to ensure equitable and inclusive solutions. The panelists agreed that by centering the voices and experiences of low wage workers and women of color in particular, who have been disproportionately impacted by the care crisis, we can build stronger systems of work and care that work for everyone, including by implementing quality, affordable childcare, paid leave for all, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, an end to abusive attendance policies, fair and flexible scheduling, and robust enforcement of our laws.