Note: On January 15, 2016, our Ombudsman Jeremiah Lowery testified on behalf of DC for Democracy in support of Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015. Following is his testimony.
Chairman Mendelson and Councilmembers, good evening. I am Jeremiah Lowery, a Ward 4 Resident, and I am testifying in favor of the Universal Paid Leave Act of 2015
Let me start by thanking you, Chairman Mendelson, for moving the bill forward and having this hearing. I am the Ombudsman for D.C for Democracy and I will be speaking on behalf the organization today. DC for Democracy is a progressive, all-volunteer community organization with members in every ward of our city.
This evening I want to speak briefly about my personal and professional reasons for supporting this bill.
A few years ago my mother had a liver infection and she was hospitalized for 3 months, and then needed at least another month to recover at home. Luckily her company offered paid leave and she was able to return to work after her recovery. Without this program, she would have had to leave her job and would have been on the brink of homelessness. My mother’s story is just like that of many other D.C. residents, except most don’t have access to a strong paid leave program. Every D.C. resident should be afforded the same opportunity as my mother and they should not have to choose between their health or staying on a job to keep food in their mouths or avoiding homelessness.
On a professional level I was the Research and Policy Coordinator at Restaurant Opportunities Center D.C. from 2013-2015, where I organized food service workers to fight for paid sick days, equal pay, and better working conditions. I heard the stories of hundreds of food service workers in D.C. - stories that included having to choose between caring for a child with a serious illness or staying on the job, or having to choose to stay in DC, where it has become unaffordable to raise a family, or move to another state that offers better benefits. Chairman Mendelson, we have the power to keep families in D.C. - let’s make sure they never have to make the decision of choosing between care for a child or a job.
In conclusion, while we appreciate the 12 weeks this bill provides, we also ask that you do even better for people with an illness like my mom’s who need at least 16 weeks of leave. DC for Democracy acknowledges the challenge the Council faces because of the uncertainties regarding the fiscal impact of this program. One way to deal with those uncertainties is to include in the legislation an automatic trigger mechanism to include the original provisions as extra funds are available. Council can establish a prioritized list of provisions, beginning with the 16 weeks of paid leave and 100% of wage replacement.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today, and I am happy to answer any questions you may have.