Three years ago, I missed my freshman orientation to the Maryland House of Delegates, but I had a good excuse: I was giving birth to my third child, Victoria.
I was born and raised in Maryland – and I am humbled and honored to serve District 13, Howard County in the General Assembly. But juggling family, session and my responsibilities as a practicing attorney can be a challenge. While we live close to Annapolis, I often spend two to three nights a week away from home working on behalf of my constituents.
Like so many families, we are making things work, but we could not do it alone. We’re so fortunate to have my mother and other family members nearby to pick up the kids from school or help them with their homework. As a legislator, I also earn paid sick days, so that I can put my family first and get my job done. But too many working women, especially African American women, are not as lucky.
Marylanders deserve a solution – and after years of compromise and negotiations with members of the House and the Senate, business groups and employees, we delivered with a bill that would have provided more than 700,000 families with the time they need to care for themselves and their families. The Healthy Working Families Act (HB1) passed by overwhelming majorities because it reflected the Maryland values of family, fairness and building a strong economy that gives everyone an opportunity to succeed.
Gov. Hogan’s decision to veto this common-sense bill was the wrong one. Now, hundreds of thousands of Marylanders still do not have access to even one earned sick day. Single moms will continue to be forced to choose between caring for a sick child and losing an entire month’s grocery budget. Workers will go to work sick and put their co-workers in harm’s way for fear of being fired for missing a shift. For women, the consequences of this decision are even more devastating. More than half of working mothers do not have access to earned sick days – making them even more likely to send a sick child to school or delay care when an illness strikes.
I know firsthand how hard it can be to balance work and family life. When I ran for office, I promised to fight for women and families, economic opportunity and to keep our children safe.Because a working mother should not have to decide between her economic security and her children’s welfare. I am fortunate that when my young children get sick, as they often do in the early years, I can take time to care for them and not send them to school sick -- risking the health of the other children. Currently, 36 percent of working African-American mothers, like myself, cannot earn paid sick days. When these working mothers’ households get sick, they risk their income by taking care of their families or put others at risk by going to work sick or sending their children to school sick. HB1 fulfills my campaign promise by allowing workers to earn up to seven paid sick days a year – so they have the time and flexibility to pay their bills and provide for their families.
We’re closer than ever to passing earned paid sick days. Come January, let’s finish the job we were sent to do.