A Message From Women Employed's CEO Regarding COVID-19

Dear Women Employed Partners and Stakeholders,

The COVID-19 virus has brought into stark relief how dependent we all are on one another for safety and security. At Women Employed, we have taken measures to keep our staff, partners, and the community safe, while also ensuring we can continue to advocate for the working women and their families who find themselves particularly at risk during this time.

  • On Wednesday evening of last week, I made the decision that Women Employed staff will work remotely until further notice, and that we will limit external in-person meetings, events, and travel. We announced this to staff and our Board of Directors on Thursday, and almost all staff started working from home on Friday, with the remainder starting today.
  • We are considering all options for The Working Lunch, scheduled for May 14th. We are closely monitoring information from authorities like the Chicago Department of Public Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and the World Health Organization. While May 14th falls just after the 8-week request from the CDC, we know this may be too close. We are in communication with the Palmer House and are looking for alternate dates before June 30th. The health and safety of our guests, our team, and the hotel staff that help us run the event are and will continue to be our top priority. We will provide updates as we have them available.

A disproportionate number of the people in low-paid professions are women—healthcare workers, restaurant servers, retail workers, child care providers, hotel housekeepers, and caregivers. People who work in front-line jobs cannot practice social isolation by working from home. Too many working women don’t have paid sick days, or financial resources to stay home without pay. We are communicating internally and with partners about where we should focus our efforts to ensure the economic security and well-being of women and families during this extraordinary time and in the future.

  • Workplace protections like paid sick time and paid family and medical leave are more important than ever. In Chicago, where we won paid sick days in 2017, employers are required to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year. We know, during this time, 40 hours still aren’t enough and will only slightly lessen the economic impact. We are heartened by some of the actions taken by our elected leaders, including extending unemployment benefits, and continue to advocate at the federal, state, and local levels for emergency response solutions that provide additional relief.
  • On Friday, the U.S. House passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to provide many people with emergency supports like paid sick time, paid family and medical leave, and free coronavirus testing. The bill now goes to the Senate. We are asking all of our supporters to take action now to help ensure it passes quickly, and to also urge your network around the country to act, too.

We will continue monitoring developments and educating workers about their right to use paid leave for coronavirus-related reasons. And, we are working harder than ever to expand that right to workers across Illinois and the country, as well as to respond to the emerging and urgent needs of women and families that are a direct result of COVID-19.

This is a moment for solidarity. We need your support more than ever to continue our important work. Thank you.

Be well and stay safe!

Cherita Ellens, CEO

Together, we will ensure more women, families, and communities can build their economic power and thrive.

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