Good afternoon, and thank you for allowing me to speak today. My name is Sonja Darai and I'm from Somerville, Massachusetts. I’m a member of the group MomsRising and I'm the mom of two teenage boys. I'm also a daughter, and I’m here today to tell you how paid family and medical leave helped me care for my dad when his health faltered.
A few years ago, my father broke his hip and required hip replacement surgery. Because my workplace offered paid leave to it employees, I was able to take a month off from work to help him with his daily needs. This was instrumental in keeping my family afloat during a turbulent time.
During my dad’s recovery from hip surgery, I cooked for him, I did laundry, I talked with him, and I ran errands. He needed help with his physical therapy and I was able to be there for him. My sisters and nieces had been my father’s primary caregivers at that time, but they needed a break and I stepped up. This is what families are supposed to do in times of need. None of it would have been possible if I had not had access to paid leave.
Truth be told, it didn't just help get my father back on his feet, it also helped bring my family together. My presence meant my dad could stay in his own home instead of going into a nursing home. This was better for my father’s mental health and saved our family money in the long term. My sisters and I were there to lend a helping hand, organizing his medication, helping him prepare meals, helping him to the bathroom. He would not have been able to stay independent if I had not been there.
Today, my father is healthy again. He still lives in his own home. He goes to visit his neighbors. And once he was back on his feet, I was able to return to work without worrying about my financial situation or job security. Not everyone is so fortunate. I was lucky to able to use my accrued paid sick days for my family leave. Some people don’t have that luxury.
I know that it can be torture when you can't be there when someone you love is ill or in need of help. Unfortunately, that's the reality for thousands of workers in Massachusetts, and millions across the country. Paid family and medical leave shouldn’t be considered a perk, doled out to the lucky few who have employers who decide to offer it – it should be a right for all workers.
A comprehensive, adequate paid family and medical leave policy would go a long way to relieve the stress that so many families feel during medical crises. It would also be a boon for Massachusetts’ businesses – it would boost employee productivity and reduce turnover.
Preventing financial devastation amongst families is crucial to community stability. Workers need to know that they can take the time they need to aid a sick family member, bond with a new child or care for their own health, without worrying about their financial stability or whether they’ll lose their job. I urge Massachusetts legislators to make the right choice and vote for SD. 1768 to provide paid family and medical leave to workers in our state. It's a win for our health, our businesses, and our state’s economy.
- MomsRising Member, Sonja testified before the Massachusttes State House Labor and Workforce Development Committee