This week I’m honored to turn over this space to my colleague Allan Reetz, our Co-op’s director of public relations. Allan is a long-time Co-op employee and member, and a staunch advocate for local agriculture, small family farms, and the issues that impact our Co-op and the communities we serve. This week I’ve asked Allan to tell us more about his important work surrounding the topic of Family and Medical Leave. My thanks to Allan for his tireless efforts and for taking the time to tell us more about it. —ed
In my role as director of public relations at our Co-op, I’m involved in a wide range of community issues. My daily to-do list is centered on using the strength and size of our business to achieve positive results for the greater community good. From food security to local agriculture, public transportation to affordable workforce housing, the tasks are varied and ever-changing.
Now, you may be asking yourself, what does any of that have to do with the Hanover Co-op? Well, weakness in any of those areas erodes the community and economy we all depend on. Problem-solving leads to strength and future success across our region.
High on our Co-op’s list of community concerns is the lack of options for paid family and medical leave at small businesses in Vermont and New Hampshire. Time off for medical reasons is available at our cooperative via the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, Short Term Disability and the extended illness bank, yet so many small businesses lack an affordable way to help their employees in times of need. Throughout 2018, I added our cooperative’s voice to the thousands of people stepping up to fix this.
The good news is, in 2018 the legislatures in Vermont and New Hampshire each passed bills that would help ease this burden by creating a state-level Family and Medical Leave program. The unfortunate news is, the Vermont bill was vetoed when it reached the governor, and the threat of a veto doomed the New Hampshire bill.
We have all been touched by a serious illness striking oneself or a family member. Of course, many of us have enjoyed the birth of a child. Yet, even that brings with it the challenges of transitioning to parenthood. Now imagine your newborn child has complications. (Maybe that has actually happened to you). Perhaps you have an aging parent whose health is failing. Cancer seems to touch us all in one way or another. In each of those scenarios, being able to take time off without risking your job or income to care for family and self is vital.
Could you choose between family and income?
Right now, thousands of workers in New Hampshire and Vermont lack any access to paid Family and Medical Leave. This is why we take action.
In the coming year, our cooperative will continue its work with Vermont’s Main Street Alliance and New Hampshire’s Campaign for a Family Friendly Economy to advocate for strong, universal paid family and medical leave bills in New Hampshire and Vermont.
We have the ability and the responsibility to speak up.
Allan Reetz is the Co-op’s director of public relations.