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July 10, 2024

WATCH: Pressley, Paid Leave for All, Advocates Keep Up Fight for National Paid Leave Policy

Pressley Shares Experience as Mother’s Caregiver During Cancer Battle, Discusses Need to Build a Just America that Cares for its People

“In a just America, we would care for our people. At some point we will all need to care for someone or to be cared for.”

Video (YouTube)

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) joined Paid Leave for All, Glamour, colleagues, and advocates for a Day of Action press event and rally to mark the progress made and keep up the ongoing fight for a national paid leave policy.  In her remarks, Rep. Pressley shared her experience as her mother’s caregiver during her battle with leukemia, discussed the need to build a just America that cares for its people, and called on Congress to pass a national paid leave program.

Paid Leave for All and Glamour announced growing support for their demands that policymakers finally commit to passing paid leave and give all working people the right to care for themselves and their families without losing a paycheck, along with releasing other new research findings and major new initiatives.

A full transcript of her remarks is available below and video is available here.

Transcript: Pressley, Paid Leave for All, Advocates Keep Up Fight for National Paid Leave Policy
U.S. Capitol
July 10, 2024

Thank you, Dawn. Thank you to the Paid Leave for All coalition and thank you to my colleagues and each and every one of you for being here today.

Like so many of you, caregiving, for me, is personal. I want to begin by centering my mother. My forever shero, may she rest in peace and power, Sandy Pressley.

My mother lived with CLL leukemia. She worked in corporate America, and because she had a fear of losing her job, she was not honest about the many medical appointments that she needed to meet in order to maintain her wellness and to keep her leukemia in remission.

And because of that fear, unfortunately, I think it cost her life.

She was afraid of losing her job, didn’t go to medical appointments, and so by the time she was getting the help, she really needed. Her leukemia was at an acute stage.

My mother was my shero, she gave me my roots and my wings.

She held down many jobs to make ends meet, but she was – would always remind me that the real work, the essential work, the work with a capital W is the work of uplifting our community.

I was my mother’s caregiver during her leukemia battle. It was a labor of love. But it was labor. 

It was a devastating and heartbreaking honor to care for her in her final days and weeks, to center her dignity, to work hard to try to extend her life on those final days that she shared with us on Earth before she transitioned.

And it was a blessing that during that time, while I was laboring in love as my mother’s caregiver, that the Senator that I worked for at the time said, “Take the time you need. Your job will be here.”

My mother was my world. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to lose the job that I loved, while I was also losing a parent who loved me so deeply. 

But that is the shameful reality for thousands of people across our country.

It’s a simple concept really. In a just America, we would care for our people. At some point we will all need to care for someone or to be cared for.

In a just America, we would care for our caregivers. And whether that’s welcoming a new baby home, going through a cancer battle, or providing care for an aging parent.

Federal policy should exist to stabilize families and communities through these major life challenges. But the status quo in America today is stark. 

Moms headed back to work weeks, sometimes days, after birth, their bodies unhealed. A loved one having to choose between the paycheck that covers groceries or being at their parents side in the hospital.

America can do more and do better. I believe in a just America where we care for our people. Another world is possible, and it is within our reach.

Support for common sense and long-overdue paid leave for all is at an all-time high. The pandemic laid bare would we have known all along: the nation’s care economy is held together by shoelaces and the unpaid labor of women.

And that can and must change.

It’s long past time to enact paid leave for all, and we are going to make it happen. Momentum is growing in Congress and across the country.

The coalition of movement builders and justice seekers gathered here today is a testament to that. And the tens of thousands of signatures being delivered here today are just the beginning.

So, thank you to my dear friend Dawn. Thank you to Paid Leave for All, Glamour, our colleagues and advocates for your partnership in this essential work.

Together will build the just America we all deserve.

Thank you.


Joining Rep. Pressley at the press conference were Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Senator Tina Smith (D-MN), Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), House Minority Whip Katherine Clark (MA-05), Representative Colin Allred (TX-32), Representative Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Representative Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06), Representative Richie Neal (MA-01), Paid Leave for All Founding Director Dawn Huckelbridge, Glamour Editor in Chief Samantha Berry, Tarana Burke, Founder of #metoo, Author, and Organizer; and MomsRising Executive Director/CEO Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner.

Throughout her time in Congress, Rep. Pressley has led efforts in Congress to extend and expand emergency paid leave protections. 

  • In October 2021, Rep. Pressley and her colleagues urged President Biden to defend robust paid family and medical leave provisions in the ongoing negotiations over the Build Back Better Act. 
  • In April 2021, Rep. Pressley introduced the COVID-19 Safe Birthing Act, bold legislation to provide critical protections and access to care for pregnant people during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • In May 2020, Rep. Pressley and Rep. Haley Stevens (MI-22) led a group of 17 freshman Members of Congress calling on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to expand paid family and medical leave as part of the HEROES Act. 
  • In April 2020, Reps. Pressley and DeLauro, along with Senators Gillibrand (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA), introduced the PAID Leave Act (Providing Americans Insured Days of Leave Act), a comprehensive emergency paid sick, paid family and medical leave bill to provide additional financial support to our nation’s most vulnerable workers and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic and future public health emergencies.
  • Rep. Pressley has also consistently called for expanded paid family and medical leave to be included in federal COVID-19 relief and infrastructure packages.
  • Rep. Pressley has also made the case for robust federal investments in childcareliving wages for early educators, support for the Head Start program, paid leave, and other policies that support families across the country.