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Public Employee Press: PEP Talk

DC 37 members use New York State Family Leave

Local 420’s Shawn Duff , with daughters Karissa and Kaylie, and baby Kai.

Entomologist Ruth Salas takes care of bug collections at the American Museum of Natural History. When her own ladybug Tilda was born, new mom Salas and her husband Alfonzo both used Paid Family Leave while caring for their infant daughter.

Rehab Counselor Rosa Gillis works with mentally ill patients at Woodhull Hospital. She also cares for her ailing mother. “The help I get from the Paid Family Leave insurance benefit means I don’t have to choose between my job and taking care of my loved ones. I’m able to accompany my mom to her doctors and still have an income so I can pay my bills,” she said.

New York State’s Paid Family Leave has been a blessing to the thousands of DC 37 members who have taken advantage of the benefit.

Local 768 member Rosa Gillis.
“The benefit is incredible, a lifesaver,” said Salas, a Local 1559 member who used PFL in 2020. At first she returned to work full time. “I naively thought I could manage my job and breastfeeding my child, but I was exhausted. I used PFL two days a week and worked three days. It was important for me to take that time. I can do my job more efficiently.”

Salas said her husband took off four weeks after Tilda arrived, and then took off one day a week with PFL.

Employees can use the 12-week benefit at once or by incremental full days in a 12-month period. Full-time employees who work a regular schedule of 20 or more hours per week can apply after working 26 consecutive weeks. The benefit also is available to part-time employees.

“The benefit is incredible, a lifesaver.”

Photo: Lily Berniker
Local 1559’s Ruth Salas with her baby Tilda, and husband Alfonso.
When Service Aide Shawn Duff’s wife Yanique Williams gave birth in Feb. 2020, he took Paid Family Leave. “Then the pandemic hit and no one could work,” the Local 420 member said. “My two older children, ages 10 and 8, were at home learning remotely.

“Paid Family Leave was a great help,” said Duff, who works at Woodhull Hospital. “It took the pressure off. We could pay our bills and help our children with online schooling. We’re back at work now and on our feet because the benefit helped tide us over. I’ve made an incredible bond with my newborn son and I can’t explain how invaluable the time spent together has been to our family. We’ve grown closer because of it.”

These DC 37 members spoke to their union reps for information on PFL and how to apply online. Local 768 member Gillis said, “This insurance benefit has been a blessing for myself and my mother. It really has brought us a lot of relief.”