Rochester Rallies for Paid Family Leave

For Immediate Release: November 4, 2015
Contact: Emma Woods,, 646-200-5303

Business owners, faith leaders, labor, and women’s advocates call on state legislature to enact paid leave in 2016

Journalist Sharon Lerner discusses devastating effects of the lack of paid family leave on mothers and infants

Rochester, NY – Rochester business owners, faith leaders, labor groups, and women’s equality advocates rallied for paid family leave at a press conference Wednesday, kicking off weeks of action across New York State in support of this crucial legislation for working families.

Speakers urged the State Legislature to pass paid family leave in the upcoming session, following growing local and national momentum in the past year. The New York Paid Family Leave Insurance Campaign was joined by local businesswoman Amy Collins, owner of New Shelves Books; Fernan Cepero, Chief Human Resources Officer at the YMCA of Greater Rochester; KaeLyn Rich, Director of the Genesee Valley Chapter of NYCLU and Regional Director of the Women’s Equality Coalition; Melanie Funchess, Director of Community Engagement at the Mental Health Association; and Sharon Lerner, journalist and author of “The Real War on Families: Why the U.S. Needs Paid Leave Now.”

“Paid family leave will help level the playing field for New York women, while strengthening and ensuring the health of our families and our economy,” said KaeLyn Rich, Director of the Genesee Valley Chapter of NYCLU and Regional Director of the Women’s Equality Coalition.

“I really do love my job. However, I love my wife more,” said Fernan Cepero, Chief Human Resources Officer at the YMCA of Greater Rochester, whose wife is suffering from breast cancer. “So now at a time when she needs me the most, I can only give her .01% of the 84,000 hours I will give my employer in a lifetime. I don’t fault my employer at all for this. It is time to change the cult of work in our country to a culture of balance between work and family.”

“Family leave insurance would help both employees and employers by giving workers the economic peace of mind they need to remain productive at the workplace and provide invaluable care for their loved ones,” said AARP Associate State Director William Armbruster. “As our population ages, the demands will only increase on a shrinking pool of potential family caregivers – who provide compassionate and cost-effective care helping our frail elderly age at home – where most want to stay. The time for family leave insurance is now.”

“The recent research I conducted with In These Times raised an alarm for all of us concerned with the health of women and infants,” said journalist and author Sharon Lerner. “Mothers who feel forced, out of economic necessity, to go back to work as early as two weeks are stressed at home and distracted and depressed at work. They are less likely to breastfeed or to get their children in for immunizations or check ups. And we are just beginning to learn about the long-term impact on children of a lack of critical bonding time and positive social interaction with trusted caregivers during infancy.”

“This program will allow us to give our employees the peace of mind of knowing that when and if the time comes that they need to take time for a family medical or caretaker crisis, they can. It will also give business owners the peace of mind of knowing that if that time comes, we can cover the employee’s time and workload,” said Amy Collins, owner of New Shelves Books.

Also present at Wednesday’s event were representatives from AAUW Greater Rochester Branch; Greater Rochester Branch, Citizen Action of New York; League of Women Voters, Monroe County;; NYCLU Rochester; NYSUT; Metro Justice, Planned Parenthood Central and Western NY; Rochester & Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO; 1199/SEIU; The Children’s Agenda; YWCA of Rochester; and the YMCA of Greater Rochester.

New Yorkers should not have to choose between their paycheck and caring for their loved ones. The Paid Family Leave Insurance Act (A.3870 Nolan/S.3004 Addabbo), which passed the Assembly in March, would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill family member, and deal with issues that arise when a family member is called to active military service.

The legislation would create a paid family leave insurance benefit that is employee-paid, through small payroll deductions that start at just 45 cents and rise to roughly 88 cents a week over four years. The bill would also modernize New York’s Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) program, the critical support system for new mothers physically recovering from childbirth, which is currently frozen at the 1989 rate of $170 per week. This would mean a small cost shared between employees and employers – one that would not be burdensome for businesses and is woefully overdue.

The New York Paid Family Leave Insurance Campaign consists of a diverse group of women’s organizations, children’s advocates, labor and public health leaders, advocates for seniors and those with chronic disease, and community and faith-based organizations. The New York Paid Family Leave Insurance Campaign’s Steering Committee consists of 1199 SEIU, 32BJ SEIU, A Better Balance, Citizen Action of New York, Community Service Society, New York Civil Liberties Union, New York Paid Leave Coalition, the NYS AFL-CIO, New York Statewide Senior Action Council, and the Working Families Organization.