E. Faye Williams

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – During the last month, Sister Nia 2X, president of the Metro D.C. National Action Network; Janna Parker, Prince George’s community activist; Josephine Mourning, president of the Metro DC SCLC; and I campaigned for the passage of Resolution CR-78. Resolution CR-78 was a rule change for the Prince George’s County Council in Maryland that would allow for council members who are on parental leave or providing caregiving to an ill loved one, or in circumstances beyond the council members’ control to vote virtually. We attended and encouraged others to attend Prince George’s County Council meeting on the resolution as well. If this resolution didn’t pass, there would have been a missed opportunity for the passage of a resolution that is most important for women – but a resolution not just for women.

The issue was so right and a reasonable accommodation that any council member might need at some point. Since councils and other organizations across the nation used virtual voting to continue doing business during COVID, the CR was easy to understand. And the community did understand! Prince George’s County’s first pregnant council member, Council Member Krystal Oriadha of district 7, who was already having a difficult pregnancy but wanted to be sure she could still represent her council district by voting virtually, had to fight for this right. Admittedly, this situation had never occurred in the history of the council, but changing the rules would address the issue if it occurs again in the future. This resolution was about every council member and would have allowed for any council member having a personal or family emergency to be entitled to similar leave.

Many people – men and women, supported what the pregnant member of the council was asking for in relation to her own situation and for her colleagues altogether. They realized that leave could, and likely would be requested for urgent family reasons. We returned to the council for another meeting. To his credit, one male council member apologized for his previous vote and agreed to support the final passage. Another male council member called for council unity in changing his vote, however, there were still three holdouts.

All of us who supported the issue showed up at the third meeting, prepared to speak once again, but there were so many requesting time to speak, so we did not receive permission. I must admit that one member of our group was allowed to speak and made such an overwhelming case for a final vote, but the three members of the council that abstained before abstained again. Fortunately, the resolution passed with 8 of the 11 council members voting in the affirmative. To our astonishment, two of the abstaining votes came from women!

CR-78 did pass and is now in effect. It will be helpful to current and future members of the county council. It covers parental leave and caregivers’ right to leave even for those who abstained or did not support this important issue. At least one council member of district 2 made statements that seem to support the lack of reasonable accommodations for her female colleagues of the Maryland General Assembly! One has to wonder what her abstention on her own council’s resolution was really all about! Perhaps that is a question her district’s constituents would like to know! It’s a question they should ask before the next election.

I am writing about this situation because we need to carefully read resolutions handled at meetings of those who vote on our laws/rules. After learning, we need to be in touch with those representing us to find out how they are planning to vote, and when we can’t reach them, we must show up in person at the meeting from introduction to conclusion of bills or resolutions. When we don’t show up, one day when we learn how the decision impacts us negatively, it’s too late. We have to live with the decision unless we can later get it overturned.

Had constituents of the council members’ districts and their supporters not shown up from beginning to end of the county council’s meeting, the vote on this important reason for leave might not have passed. Women who might become pregnant, and others who might need urgent family care leave would have been discouraged from running for office – and yes, this would more greatly impact women – but not just women. If your city, county, state or other governing body does not have such a leave provision as the one in this article, be the one who brings it up and be prepared to see it through to the end.

Dr. E. Faye Williams, Esq. is president of The Dick Gregory Society and President Emeritus of the National Congress of Black Women. She can be reached through https://www.drefayewilliams.com and https://www.thedickgregorysociety.org.

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