Making It Work for Our Workers

Samantha Bauman
Deeds Not Words
Published in
4 min readDec 12, 2016


Betsaida, 23

It isn’t a secret that the U.S. is one of the few Western countries without any federal paid leave — appalling, but not a secret. In state legislatures across the country, advocates for equality and workers rights have been fighting years of opposition, largely battling the myth that paid family leave is a burden for small businesses. However, data has proven that these laws and corporate policies are beneficial to companies in states with legacies of strong paid family leave like California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. Studies show that paid leave improves worker retention, which saves employers money through reduced turnover costs.

This year the National Partnership for Women & Families released their grades for each state’s paid family leave policies, with only 13 states and Washington D.C. receiving a grade above a C+. We spoke with Betsaida on her experience living in California’s Bay Area, where they have an “A” grade, about how important a strong paid leave law has impacted her family:

Why is paid family leave important to you?

My little brother, who is now 6 years old, was in rough shape when his appendix burst back in February. My mom, as any mother would, needed to care for her child as he healed from such a traumatic experience. And my brother’s young, you know, he wanted someone with him at all times as he recovered. So she chose to stay with him for the first couple of weeks, but this wasn’t as quick and easy of a decision as it would have been for many families.

Why is that?

My mom works as a cashier at a grocery store in the Bay Area. In that sort of employment, she doesn’t get the same benefits as I do, so we didn’t know if she’d be able to apply for paid leave.

I wasn’t making a lot at the time, but working for the sort of company I did, it was easy to say I need to work from home, or work half a day, or use sick hours. It wasn’t a big deal; everyone understood. At the time, one of my clients was A Better Balance, who work to advance worker rights in New York.

So I was familiar with paid leave — but I didn’t know how that worked in California, or if my mom would have the same sort of opportunity as a blue-collar worker.

I didn’t know how to figure that out, or what resources to look into. After the first surgery, my brother wasn’t recovering as fast as he should have and it looked like it was getting worst. His appendix had not been completely removed and it got reinfected, so the time off became doubly important.

What did this new infection mean for your brother’s care?

He had to go into the hospital for a second surgery, which meant more time off work for my mom to be with him. Bills had to be paid, we had to make rent, which was definitely a concern we had. So my dad had to keep working, but my mom stayed in the hospital to make sure he was recovering.

Since she stayed there with my brother every night, that was an additional cost because we had to buy food, pay for parking and transportation and other expenses we could have avoided in our normal routine. Since it was a long commute to the hospital it meant paying more on gas and spending almost $7 every time we cross the Golden Gate bridge, and that adds up! It’s ridiculous.

While we were there, a social worker came and talked to us and reassured us that we’d be able to get some help. She walked us through the forms we needed to fill out, told us how to submit them to my mom’s employer to get paid leave.

What did this mean for your family?

It didn’t cover everything she missed at work, but it was something!

Without the help, my dad would have been the sole income provider, which would have been difficult because we also relied on my mom’s income to be able to get by. I was also not making a lot at that time to be able to help them financially.

An added burden was how frustrating it was, not knowing where to go and what resources to reach out to for help — and if that help would apply to us.

Because of paid leave, we were able to keep a roof over her head and pay bills. Without it, it would have been really tough for us to pay on time — we would have been fined, adding more of a burden to my family than what we were already going through. We are very grateful!

We must continue to fight for the economic security of Americans and our families. We must do more to expand workers rights; and, specifically, we must fight for the rights of women in the workforce. Paid family leave is a critical policy that we must address for the good of our national economic future. And, it is important that paid leave must encompass all definitions of “family” to recognize the diverse nature of care responsibilities amongst today’s workforce. With a President-Elect who views pregnancy as an “inconvenience”, the uphill battle for paid family leave has become dramatically steeper.

If you are interested in taking action for paid family leave in your own state, spread the word about #ExpectingBetter. The National Partnership’s Expecting Better campaign provides an analysis of your state’s paid family leave plan, and provides a toolkit for drafting posts on social media and how to write a letter to an editor.

For more information on paid family leave and what you can do to help, subscribe to our Deeds Digest newsletter and follow us on social media:

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Samantha Bauman
Deeds Not Words

nasty woman, campaign worker turned activist, Nebraska raised me but Texas made me.