Sisterhood On The Ground
“There are now 43 million cracks in the glass ceiling.” Hillary Clinton, November 2016
I am going to call my young friend Betty. That is not her name of course and we are not really friends. She’s on the management team at a fast food restaurant, that will remain nameless, near my office. Betty is most likely in her mid-twenties. She’s physically quite small and appears to be of Asian, possibly Filipino heritage. Not that this really matters.
This summer I noticed that Betty was wearing her shirt untucked. Mind you Betty, even in her horrid uniform, has always looked classy. She manages a work crew with an ever-changing cast of characters. Then there are the restaurant patrons — the retirees taking advantage of the deeply discounted (and most likely bad for them) all-day breakfast, the busy folks who just want their coffee; students from the nearby vocational schools — the health care workers in training in uniforms, the computer tech folks in regular dress; the homeless who wander in and out from time to time, sometimes with money to pay, sometimes not. And of course there are the drive through patrons who regularly turn off the busy street into the lane where they can order their food over an intercom link.
Betty, I noticed, does a lot of moving around in the small space that is the kitchen area and front counter. She usually having some kind of verbal exchange with the drive through staff and the drive through customers who almost always have a problem with their order or who want something else. It looks like a tough job.
I noticed a few weeks after observing the untucked shirt, a baby bump. Betty and I had the usual chat: when are you due…late summer…first baby…yes. Well good luck.
It is now late summer and Betty is still moving rather smartly, but I see tired in her face. So when are you going on maternity leave? Betty’s usually bright face falls a little. A week before the baby is due, she tells me in a low voice. Do you know about Family Medical Leave? She shakes her head “no”. She just knows that she can get disability insurance but the company only give six weeks maternity leave. “Tell you what,” I say “let me bring you some information.”
A couple of days later with the downloaded information about the California Family Medical Leave Act, I pop into the fast food restaurant. I don’t see Betty at first and then she appears. I hand her an envelope with the information including the fact that with information from her medical provider she can go on medical leave up to four weeks before the baby is due.
Betty takes the envelope from me, and she smiles. I don’t even need to order a milkshake. That smile was so worth it.
NB: In the Age of Trump, it’s important to remember, we have to get the word out about the fights we’ve won and the fights we are still fighting. If male tech titans can take a couple of months off on paternity leave, the young woman who manages a shift at a fast food restaurant should get some time off with pay to look after her baby too.