February is Black History Month. This month is a time for acknowledging the shameful history of systemic racism in this country and taking actionable steps to dismantle the complex systems of oppression. It is also a time to reflect upon the hard-won strides that have been made towards a more equitable future thanks to the numerous Black activists, advocates, and changemakers whose voices have been instrumental in the fight for justice for all workers.
In order to truly guarantee equitable workplaces for Black workers, who are often overrepresented in industries and positions that lack access to employer-provided supportive policies, we must advance critical federal protections like paid family and medical leave, paid sick time, and flexible scheduling, so that workers do not have to choose between taking care of their health or their loved ones or risking their economic security. Research shows that Black women in particular often lack access to these protections, and are more than twice as likely as white mothers to be their family’s breadwinners. As a result, Black women frequently are forced to ignore the health of themselves and their family to continue providing critical income for their family in times of need.
A Better Balance, alongside our national and community based partners, have celebrated great federal progress towards better supporting working Black mothers, and combating our nation’s shameful Black maternal health crisis with the passage of the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act and PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act at the end of 2022. These laws extend the right to reasonable accommodations to pregnant, postpartum and nursing mothers nationwide, allowing new and expectant mothers to maintain healthy pregnancies and postpartum periods without sacrificing their economic security or attachment to the workforce. As we continue to support workers nationwide through our free and confidential legal helpline, these landmark civil rights victories are already making a world of difference for working Black women, but advancing racial justice means supporting the full spectrum of health and caregiving needs workers of color experience, especially young Black women starting out their careers.
In order to truly dismantle systems of oppression, we must support the health and economic security of Black families in the workplace and beyond. This Black History Month and always, we at A Better Balance remain committed to fighting for justice and equity for all working people, and we will not stop until everyone is fully supported in caring for themselves and their loved ones.