Reliving a Historic Day for SMLR’s Center for Women and Work

By Steve Flamisch

Karen White and Yarrow Willman-Cole have spent years educating policymakers about earned sick leave and its potential to help New Jersey’s working families, businesses, and communities. Fittingly, they had the best view in the house when it became state law.


Governor Phil Murphy signs earned sick leave
into law at the Trenton War Memorial on
Wednesday, May 2, 2018.
(Courtesy: NJOIT/Governor's Office.)

Governor Phil Murphy invited White and Willman-Cole, of SMLR’s Center for Women and Work, to stand with him at the signing ceremony in Trenton on May 2. With cameras clicking and hundreds of people watching in person and via live stream, Murphy signed the law using multiple pens and handed them, one-by-one, to White, Willman-Cole, and the other dignitaries.

“I was honored to be one of the few people chosen to stand with the Governor,” White said. “Receiving a signing pen is a token of a lot of hard work and a lifelong commitment to making the workplace fairer for workers and their families.”’

Sen. Loretta Weinberg, Sen. Linda R. Greenstein, and Assemblymembers Pamela R. Lampitt, Raj Mukherji, Benjie E. Wimberly, Shavonda E. Sumter, Paul D. Moriarty, and the late Jerry Green were the primary sponsors of the legislation, with close to 20 co-sponsors.


Governor Phil Murphy hands signing pens to
Karen White (top) and Yarrow Willman-Cole of
SMLR’s Center for Women and Work.
(Courtesy: NJTV)

The law will benefit an estimated 1.2 million New Jerseyans when it takes effect in October. Eligible employees will earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 40 hours of sick leave per year.

“For me, the day was about folks like Reynalda, Safiyyah, Nancy, and countless others who have shared their stories with me about how difficult it has been to take care of themselves and their families without earned sick days,” Willman-Cole said. “I am so happy that they will benefit from this new law.”

CWW research finds earned sick leave can improve the health and well-being of working families, while boosting productivity and reducing turnover in businesses. White and Willman-Cole have shared these research findings at countless legislative hearings and meetings over the years, and they have helped municipalities and other states implement their own policies.

In 2009, White also played a key role in the creation of New Jersey’s Family Leave Insurance, which enables workers to take up to six weeks of paid time-off to care for a new baby or a loved one who is ill. White and Willman-Cole are currently providing policy analysis on legislation that would expand that program.

“All in all, it’s an incredible feeling of having made a small but positive difference in the lives of others,” White said.

Click here to read White’s Q&A with the Star-Ledger.