The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8 was “Press for Progress,” and UFT members did just that by wearing purple — the color traditionally associated with International Women’s Day — in support of the UFT’s campaign for paid parental leave.
“It was an opportunity to bring attention to an issue that affects a lot of members at our school,” said Keith Powell, the chapter leader at Maspeth HS in Queens, where more than 70 members donned purple clothes and accessories. “It was a great way of building unity.”
The Department of Education’s current policy — which forces members to pay for their own maternity leave out of their sick-day bank — has had a lasting negative impact on its overwhelmingly female workforce.
“I returned from maternity/child care leave in September 2014, and I still can’t manage to carry a positive CAR balance,” said Mary McGregor, a teacher who wore purple at Stuyvesant HS in Lower Manhattan. “Every day, I teach and nurture and care for other people’s children at a job I love, but I often fall short of caring for my own child and myself in the ways we also need.”
Antonella Lombardo, the chapter leader at PS 177 in Gravesend, Brooklyn, who led 23 of her members in wearing purple, said, “Everyone in the picture, including myself, has a personal story of the negative impact of not having paid parental leave.”
More than 500 UFT members pledged to participate in the action, and many shared photos on social media using the hashtag #UFTPaidParentalLeave.