Local leaders fight funding cuts for sick leave, parental leave for Shelby County government employees

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis AFL-CIO Central Labor Council, faith leaders, community activists, stakeholders, and elected officials today announced they are fighting efforts to cut funding for flexible paid sick leave and paid parental leave for Shelby County government employees from the FY2021 budget.

The group will submit a letter to the Board of Commissioners asking for their public commitment to keep these benefits in the budget, according to a press release.

From the press release:

Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris: “To reduce the spread of viruses, like COVID-19, we encourage employees to stay home when they are feeling ill. However, without policies, like sick leave and paid parental leave, employees cannot afford to stay sick or stay home to care for a loved one. Working families should not have to choose between their job and taking care of their health or the health of a family member. Paid sick leave and parental leave policies should not be put in jeopardy in this budget process. We should not balance our budget on the back of employee benefits.”

Shelby County Circuit Court Clerk Temiika Gipson: “Paid parental leave allows both parents the opportunity to bond with their newborn without having to worry about depleting their annual time or taking unpaid leave. Funding the paid parental leave policy will keep our employees from having to choose between building a nurturing relationship with the new addition to their family and keeping their job. To ensure that our employees do not have to make decisions between their job and their family, we are respectfully asking the Board of Commissioners to keep the paid parental benefits in the FY2021 budget.”

Elizabeth Gedmark, Vice President and Director of A Better Balance Southern Office: “A Better Balance has long pushed for paid family leave protections nationwide. We were glad to see the Shelby County Commission adopt the County’s first paid parental leave policy earlier this year. When paid parental leave is not an option, workers who are expecting a new child may be forced to choose between coming to work sick or using precious paid time off they were hoping to save for when their child arrives. Paid parental leave should not be on the chopping block, especially during a global pandemic.”

James E. Jones, President/Principal Officer of Teamsters Local 667: “When we look at the struggle to achieve a balanced budget, we must compare the protection against every day challenges to the cost of a once a year fee. The working community understands that there is a cost to unforeseen circumstances. They would prefer to pay a minimal yearly fee to protect their families against the unknown. In this uncertain time, we are forced to understand the importance of a benefits package to cover the situations that we are not properly prepared for. We cannot justifiably strip the workforce of security. This is the time to fortify their protections and maintain the well-being of every family’s financial security.”