This year, we are celebrating the 10th year anniversary of the passage of a pioneering law for California’s working families. In 2002, a coalition of unions and community organizations including the Labor Project for Working Families successfully passed the first Paid Family Leave (PFL) law in the nation. The law established a family leave insurance program that enables millions of Californians to be there for a seriously ill family member or a new child without worrying about losing their income when they take time off from work.
I gave birth to a healthy baby boy in July 2010. As I recovered from childbirth and later took time off to bond with my child, my union contract guaranteed that I wouldn’t lose pay or my family health coverage for the duration of my leave.
In 2009, Victoria Guillen, a dishwasher at the Grand Hyatt hotel in San Francisco, was pregnant too. Victoria had a difficult, high-risk pregnancy, was advised by her doctor to take a long leave of absence. However, unlike my experience, Victoria had to struggle with her employers for her rights. Her managers wanted her to return to work three days after her due date or not come back at all. Victoria couldn’t return to work three days after her c-section. She lost her job. She fought back with the support of her union UNITE HERE Local 2. After months of petitioning, Hyatt gave in and Victoria was allowed to return to her job. (Read Victoria’s story in her own words).