Ana Martinez: Paid family leave should support all workers

Ana MartinezI immigrated to Woodburn, Oregon in my twenties with my eight month old baby. I worked for many years in low-paid jobs where the working conditions were difficult. First working in the tulip fields, as well as on other crops. Then in a tortilla shop with long days and no breaks. Next I spent 12 years working six, sometimes seven, days a week at a Mexican restaurant. While working 14 hour days at the restaurant, I missed key moments in my children’s lives, but I was the primary provider and needed to work.

At one point, I was diagnosed with Meningitis and had to take a whole month unpaid off work to heal. This was an incredibly difficult financial situation. I had to take the time off unpaid, and I was uninsured at the time. I was the main cook at the restaurant and was able to return to work. But the long hours and toxic work environment led me to start my own business in 2012. Now I run a catering company that specializes in Mexican traditional foods such as tacos and taquitos. In 2015, I also started my own cleaning service. I have a vision to expand these businesses and hire employees.

Now I am my own boss, and I can spend time with my family and have flexibility. I can express my values, including supporting families in my business decisions. Understanding the challenges I went through in my previous employment without paid family and medical leave, I fully support a Paid Family Medical Leave bill–including paying in to the program. I want to be able to offer myself and my future employees the ability to take care of themselves and their families when hardships arise.

Family is an important value to me – and in the Latinx community. Supporting families through times of crisis with social insurance programs like Paid Family Medical Leave, would help small business owners like me retain good employees. It would also give me a way to express my commitment to family values as an employer. When I look back on my time off work due to my illness, the emotional and financial toll for my family was so high. Paid Family Medical Leave should support all workers, especially those who do some of the toughest work in this country in low-wage jobs and farmwork.

Ana Martinez is the owner of Ana’s Service and Catering, a cleaning services and Mexican foods catering business in Oregon.

Check out more Small Business for Paid Leave resources at smallbusinessforpaidleave.org.