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Lawmakers, advocates rally in Wilmington for paid medical and family leave

The Paid Leave For All national bus tour stopped in the First State Wednesday.  

Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.) joined state lawmakers and local and regional advocates in Wilmington to rally for paid leave at the national and state level. 

They want Congress to pass a national program to give workers paid time off when they’re sick, or need to care for a new baby or relative. 

“We need the courage and the will to get it done” Blunt Rochester said. “If a pandemic can’t show you how important this is, what can? We know that over 4 million women at one point left the workforce, and only 2 million have come back.”

Nour Qutyan is a paid leave advocate based in Philly who’s worked in the restaurant industry for a decade. She says this past year, she was forced to take unpaid time off every time she was exposed to COVID. And she says she’s had to choose between her job and family. 

“When my mom had a breast cancer scare and when I wanted to go home to Pittsburgh to take care of her and be with her—instead I was threatened that I would lose my job if I tried taking off any work,” Qutyan said. 

Brew HaHa! founder Alisa Morkides said at the rally that paid leave helps small businesses compete with larger ones for employees. She says her local coffee shop chain has committed to giving its employees paid leave.  

“But still, it’s not enough,” Morkides said. “The reality is that we’re a small business that operates on slim margins. This Paid Leave For All program offers more than we can afford to give our team. It would make it possible for me to offer up to 12 weeks of time off, fully covered.”

State Sen. Sarah McBride (D-Claymont) introduced legislation to create a statewide paid family and medical leave insurance program this spring, but it didn’t make it to a vote. 

McBride hopes that Congress can pass a national program in its budget reconciliation bill, but says failing that, she’ll push her bill again next year.

 

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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