Paid family leave—almost every country in the world has it, except for three: Oman, Papua New Guinea, and the United States, and Congress doesn't appear poised to change national policies to support new parents any time soon. But, thanks to the beauty of federalism, state-level governments can step up to this challenge, and some funders are super-focused on that potential, investing in local advocacy campaigns to bring about policy change one state and city at a time.
Some of the country's largest foundations, including Kellogg and Ford, actively seek to promote the adoption of family leave policies at sub-national levels and are investing accordingly. Kellogg recently gave $400,000 to the Small Business Majority Foundation to promote worker protection laws, including paid parental leave, in Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, Illinois ,and California. And Ford has given millions of dollars to Family Values at Work for legislative family and sick leave campaigns in 14 U.S. states.
Funders in this space recently got a nice affirmation moment when Massachusetts voters enacted paid sick leave through a ballot initiative in November, becoming the third state to do so. (We listed that success as one of "philanthropy's greatest hits, 2014.") The wording of this and other laws is expansive, and includes time off to care for family members.
Meanwhile, the District of Columbia began offering paid sick leave to its city employees last year. Now activists are pushing to expand program eligibility to include all D.C. working adults.
Supporting family-friendly legislative advocacy in the nation's capital is the Consumer Health Foundation. Through a $35,000 grant the foundation recently awarded to Jews United for Justice, CHF is funding outreach and awareness campaigns to make one of America's most socially liberal cities a national leader in worker protections.
Jews United for Justice is a social justice organization in Washington that links progressive Jews with regional political races and policy advocacy campaigns. JUFJ tends to focus on a few issue areas where opportunities for legislative change appear most likely. In addition to paid family leave, JUFJ is also working to move local legislatures on paid sick leave and affordable housing.
Also based in the District, the Consumer Health Foundation's stated mission is to "advocate for health and racial equity through programs and investments that advance the health and well-being of low-income communities and communities of color." The foundation is a small grantmaker that's given out under $30 million in grants since 1997, but that money stays close to home and goes to community-based groups that know how to stretch a dollar as they for fight for equity in the region.
Put another way, CHF is one of those lifesaver funders that keeps local organizers and social justice groups afloat. Such groups often have a tough time finding money because they're too small to get the attention of national foundations like Ford, but too edgy to win support from mainstream regional funders who are more comfortable cutting checks to food pantries and health clinics.
So, for example, CHF's recent grantees include a number of D.C. groups lobbying the D.C. Council for more worker-friendly laws, including the Restaurant Opportunities Center, the D.C. Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, and the D.C. Employment Justice Center. In nearby Maryland and Virginia, CHF has given money to groups fighting for immigrant rights and affordable healthcare.
Whether D.C. will be next on the list of U.S. regions that offer paid parental leave remains to be seen, but CHF's multiple investments in D.C. labor rights advocacy groups indicate some level of faith in the potential for legislative change in the District of Columbia.