For almost 30 years, Melissa Josephs has been on the frontlines of Women Employed’s policy work — drafting bills, building coalitions, talking to the press, and working with legislators, aldermen, mayors, governors, and policymakers to change the landscape for working women. As our board chair Lisa Pattis said, “This state is a far better place to get up and go to work in every day because of the work of Melissa Josephs.”
At the end of this month, on the heels of the amazing legislative victories outlined in our June issue of WE-Zine, Melissa is stepping away from policy work to begin the well-deserved next chapter of her life. We sat down with her to reflect on her time at Women Employed. We will miss you, Melissa!
Melissa, tell us what your proudest achievement has been in your time at Women Employed.
Passing paid sick time in Chicago and Cook County, because it had such a big impact on so many lives. So many more people now have the right to earn and use paid sick time, and I love that you can also use that time to care for a family member — your chosen family member, not just by blood or marriage.
What are some of the other big issues you’ve worked on over the years?
Early in my time at Women Employed, we passed the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which was of course a major victory. Since then, I’ve worked on increasing the minimum wage, strengthening sexual harassment prevention laws, improving pregnancy fairness, equal pay, and so much more. It’s exciting to be ending my time at WE on a victory with the No Salary History bill!
What have you most enjoyed about working at Women Employed?
The amazing, brilliant women on the Women Employed staff with whom I get to work and learn from every day. And my colleagues at partner organizations who form the coalitions that have helped us pass laws. And of course, working with the legislators who make it their job to introduce, move, and pass good bills. I’ve had the privilege to work with fantastic people in this job.
What will you miss?
Eating dinner at Gabatoni’s in Springfield, Illinois with my colleague Wendy Pollack from the Shriver Center on Poverty Law. It’s this hole in the wall place. But it has good, filling, homestyle Italian food. And they always have over the top decorations for holidays — ANY holiday — no matter when you’re there. It’s a place with character!
What do you think the future holds?
A woman president. It’s coming! And the day when we no longer remember a time when people didn’t have paid leave, or couldn’t take a paid sick day, or were paid unfairly. A day when everyone earns a livable wage and nobody is subject to harassment. That day is coming, too. And I know Women Employed will be instrumental in getting us there!