Commentary: Those who carried the burden help deliver paid family leave act

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Editor’s note: Gov. John Carney signed the Healthy Delaware Families Act Tuesday, May 10. The following are remarks made at the bill signing at Legislative Hall.

It is an honor to be here today. Thank you, Gov. Carney, for your leadership bringing us to this historic moment.

Thank you to Rep. Debra Heffernan, D-Bellefonte; Majority Leader Rep. Valerie Longhurst, D-Bear; Majority Leader Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, and every member of the General Assembly who voted for Senate Bill 1.

And thank you to Sen. Sarah McBride, D-Wilmington, who, as many have noted, dedicated countless hours to making sure the Healthy Delaware Families Act became law.

My name is Liz Richards, and I am the director of the Delaware Cares Coalition. A little over a year ago, organizations from the health, faith, labor and business community across our state joined together because they believed in one simple idea: that in life’s most challenging moments and most joyful, no one should be forced to choose between their job and their family.

This day is historic, but it was not guaranteed. We had to fight for it.

Because as the world has changed, too often, we have failed to change with it.

And too often, the burdens of that changing world have fallen to the most vulnerable among us:

People struggling through illness.

Caregivers forced out of a job they love or away from a loved one who needs them.

Parents who returned to work just a couple weeks after giving birth — mothers who put their bodies on the line — because they had no paid family and medical leave.

I now look at my daughter, Josephine — born a little over five weeks ago — and I am profoundly moved by what this bill will mean to those parents and to every child born in Delaware in the years to come.

What makes today’s victory so sweet to me is not just that paid leave is smart policy or the right thing to do.

What makes it so sweet is that the people who shouldered the burdens of an unfair status quo — caregivers, women, working people, people of color, survivors, health care workers, people with disabilities and so many more — were the ones who delivered this victory for all Delawareans.

Because of you — and because of the lawmakers here today who listened and led alongside you — today, we are rising to build a new future for our families.

Thank you again to all the leaders and lawmakers here today who showed the nation that Delaware cares.

Liz Richards is the director of the Delaware Cares Coalition for Paid Leave, a group of over 50 health, labor, faith, business and community organizations that was committed to passing paid family and medical leave in the First State. Learn more at decares.org