United Methodist Women Named a Game Changer

United Methodist Women receives community partner award from Family Values at Work for its Paid Family and Medical Leave Campaign.

United Methodist Women Named a Game Changer
United Methodist Women General Secretary Harriett Jane Olson accepts the GameChanger award via video.

In 2020, United Methodist Women members engaged in a campaign for paid family and medical leave, part of the organization’s Living Wage for All campaign focusing on economic inequality. Members sent hundreds of letters and postcards to Congress and called their congressional representatives to encourage support for the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, or FAMILY Act, to help more workers receive paid leave.

United Methodist Women partnered with Family Values at Work, who in December 2020 honored United Methodist Women with their community partner award. General Secretary Harriett Jane Olson accepted the award on behalf of United Methodist Women members in a Dec. 3 virtual GameChanger Awards ceremony.

The partnership with Family Values at Work came about through Carol Burnett, executive director of Moore Community House, a United Methodist Women-supported national mission institution. Olson praised national mission institutions for their work empowering women and supporting economically disadvantaged families and communities.

“I want to acknowledge United Methodist Women’s invaluable partners, including Family Values at Work, and our own national mission institutions, who work with persons experiencing poverty every day, especially the Moore Community House in Biloxi, Mississippi, whose Women in Construction program helps low-income women, most of them single mothers, make their way into high-paying construction jobs, and whose executive director, Carol Burnett, connected us with the campaign,” Olson said. 

FAMILY Act

Thanks in part to United Methodist Women’s efforts, the bipartisan FAMILY Act has 215 House sponsors and 37 Senate sponsors. The bill will be reintroduced in 2021 in the new Congress. You can sign a Family Values at Work petition inviting the new Congress to support the bill here.

Members also held screenings for the film Zero Weeks, using the toolkit [PDF] created by United Methodist Women that included Zoom tutorials, discussion questions and information, and suggestions for action. Members also hosted action tables at 2019 Mission u events. Many members joined the virtual celebration as well.

Erica Clemmons-Dean with the New Georgia Project, a nonprofit focused on voter registration and civic engagement, presented the award to United Methodist Women.

“We are honoring United Methodist Women for the outstanding work they have done to promote a national paid family and medical leave program through their living wage campaign,” she said. “They understood that people need a decent wage and need to know they won’t lose that pay or their job because they’re caring for a loved one or following doctor’s orders. United Methodist Women have been enthusiastic promoters of the Zero Weeks documentary, coordinating screenings in more than 60 congregations to involve members as activists in our movement. When the pandemic hit, they didn’t give up on this project but shifted seamlessly to digital screenings. We are grateful to have this powerful community of faith as our partner in our work to build a just economy we all need.”

Other winners included Policy Champion Representative Ayanna Presley, Business Champion Good Business Colorado, Worker Activist Tameka Henry and Labor Champions the National Treasury Employees Union and American Federation of Government Employees. The ceremony included victory stories from coalition partners, musical and comedy performances and a keynote by author and feminist Roxane Gay.

Paid Family and Medical Leave

Too many families must risk their health or job just to care for themselves or the ones they love. Only 17 percent of the private sector workforce in the United States has access to paid family leave through an employer, and just 40 percent [PDF] have employer-provided temporary disability benefits according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, per a 2013 Oxfam report [PDF], 1 in 7 workers has lost a job to recover from illness or care for a family member. Because women still bear major responsibility for caregiving, working mothers take an even harder hit. Almost 1 in 5 has lost a job due to sickness or caring for a sick child.

“United Methodist Women is committed to turning faith, hope and love into action on behalf of women, children and youth in our own communities, in our nation and around the world,” Olson said in her address. “These times are so challenging. Not only has COVID-19 taken the lives of more than 225,000 Americans, leaving families to mourn their losses, it has also hit Black families, Hispanic families, immigrant families and other families of color the hardest. COVID-19 is hurting women, children and youth, and it has laid bare the economic realities that are at the heart of United Methodist Women’s Paid Family and Medical Leave and Living Wage campaign.”

Olson thanked members for engaging in the paid family and medical leave campaign for contacting their representatives and raising awareness.

“I join my prayers with yours that our nation will not close its eyes to what COVID-19 has revealed,” she continued, “and that we will continue to engage in effective work for paid family and medical leave, living wage and access to health care for all.”

Watch the full awards ceremony at familyvaluesatwork.org/gamechangerawards.

Tara Barnes is editor of response.

Posted or updated: 12/17/2020 12:00:00 AM