The vote — which will deliver 12 weeks of paid leave to 2.6 million Coloradans — is expected to spur additional state and federal action.
In their first electoral contest, paid family and medical leave supporters won a decisive victory Tuesday in Colorado, setting up further action at the federal and state level as voters demand progress on the issue as part of the nation’s response to COVID-19.
“Colorado just sent an unquestionable message about the appetite for guaranteed paid family and medical leave. We expect our leaders to learn lessons from COVID-19 and take action now,” said Jonathan Schleifer, Executive Director of The Fairness Project, a lead supporter of the Colorado paid family and medical leave campaign.
“We all want to be able to take care of sick loved ones, spend time with our newborns and protect our communities from the spread of illnesses. We’ve learned that we can’t count on employers to provide that. We need a public policy and Colorado voters showed us the path for doing exactly that.”
Nearly everyone at some point in their lives will need care for themselves, a new child, or a seriously ill family member, and Americans across the political spectrum overwhelmingly support paid family and medical leave. This vote in Colorado has shown that American voters are stepping up and demanding change.
This initiative will deliver leave to the 80 percent of Coloradans who didn’t have access to it previously, like April Kimbrough. A health care worker in Colorado, April lives paycheck to paycheck without access to paid family and medical leave. When her son was diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer earlier this year, she was devastated. “I’m keeping us afloat instead of holding his hand. I’d gladly pay a few bucks a week so that I don’t have to choose between the bills and my son’s final days,” said April. Now, thanks to proposition 118, April will be able to take the time she needs to visit her son and help him with his care, without risking her job.
In 2017, the Fairness Project helped change the dynamics on health care by winning the first-ever Medicaid expansion ballot measure in Maine — a victory that ignited a wave of initiatives across the country. Following the win in Maine, The Fairness Project helped voters in Utah, Nebraska, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Missouri all win Medicaid expansion.
Similarly, this win in Colorado has the potential to spark a new wave of ballot measures on another major issue that Americans want addressed. “Americans are no longer going to just wait and accept another decade of failure on paid family and medical leave. Politicians can fix it, or we will,” Schleifer said.
The Fairness Project most recently helped voters make Medicaid expansion a right in Oklahoma and Missouri. The campaigns were part of a multi-year strategy by The Fairness Project that led to six red and purple states expanding Medicaid. The organization has also passed ballot measures to stop predatory lending and increase the minimum wage and access to paid sick leave across the country. It has now won 20 of its first 21 campaigns.