A new voice has entered the scrum over Biden’s social safety net bill: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. On Wednesday, she released an open letter to Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi in their capacities as House and Senate majority leaders, urging them not to compromise on the issue of comprehensive paid leave for all.
The Democrats are currently looking at ways to cut the initial cost of Joe Biden’s social safety net bill to please two grandstanding jerks, Joe Manchin and Krysten Simena. One of the possibilities, the New York Times reported yesterday: the full paid leave program as it currently exists in the bill. The initially proposed 12 weeks of paid leave for new parents, caretakers, and people who are sick could potentially shrivel to just a few weeks.
And so Meghan Markle has thrown the full weight of her massive public profile behind the program—on Duke and Duchess of Sussex letterhead and everything.
“I’m writing to you on behalf of millions of American families who are using their voices to say that comprehensive paid leave should not be a place to compromise or negotiate,” she wrote in an open letter published on the website for the organization Paid Leave for All. “No family should have to choose between earning a living and having the freedom to take care of their child (or a loved one, or themselves, as we would see with a comprehensive paid leave plan),” she wrote.
In the letter, she wrote about her own experiences growing up, in what is surely the first time any member of the royal family has ever mentioned the Sizzler salad bar:
For many, this sacrifice goes back further than the past 20 months; it’s 20 or 30 years, even longer—decades of giving time, body, and endless energy not just in the pursuit of the American dream, but simply the dream of stability.
I grew up on the $4.99 salad bar at Sizzler—it may have cost less back then (to be honest, I can’t remember)—but what I do remember was the feeling: I knew how hard my parents worked to afford this because even at five bucks, eating out was something special, and I felt lucky. And as a Girl Scout, when my troop would go to dinner for a big celebration, it was back to that same salad bar or The Old Spaghetti Factory—because that’s what those families could afford to do too....
I expect many of your constituents have their own version of that story. Perhaps you do too. People in our country work incredibly hard, and yet the ask is soft: for a level playing field to achieve their version of a common dream—what is fair, and equal, and right. Many of our economic systems are past their expiration date, and as you well know, too many Americans are forced to shortchange themselves when it comes to what matters to them.
“Paid leave should be a national right, rather than a patchwork option limited to those whose employers have policies in place, or those who live in one of the few states where a leave program exists,” she added. “If we’re going to create a new era of family first policies, let’s make sure that includes a strong paid leave program for every American that’s guaranteed, accessible, and encouraged without stigma or penalty.”
Markle’s remarks arrive in the wake of more than a dozen senators warning Schumer and Pelosi in a letter of their own that paid family leave for all workers must be included in the program despite the need to cut the “$3.5 trillion price tag.” Like Markle, they insisted that families cannot emerge from the covid “crisis and remain one of the only countries in the world with no form of national paid leave.”
Maybe next we’ll see Harry outside of that John Deere factory with a picket sign!