There are few families that have impacted the American people as much as the Kennedys. Through politics, activism, fashion, controversy and tragedy, one thing that everyone can agree upon is that this family name will be remembered. The latest tragic end has fallen upon Senator Edward M. Kennedy who died at the age of 77 on August 25th.
Kennedy spent over 3 decades of his life in the U.S. Senate and among his many contributions (over 2,500 bills), one of his passions was creating a safer workplace for American workers.
One of the most well-known rights Kennedy fought to give workers was the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This act gave all workers the ability to take unpaid leave to care for themselves or family members in case of a medical illness or for maternity leave without fear of termination. Over 60 million Americans have been able to take advantage of this act thanks in part to Ted Kennedy.
Kennedy also worked to provide Americans with the right to paid sick leave by introducing the Healthy Families Act, which would ensure 7 days of paid sick leave to be used for workers’ health maintenance as well as their family members. He also saw the need for the Working Families Flexibility Act in order to allow employees the ability to meet the needs of both family and work through a flexible job arrangement.
He even made a point throughout his career to address the financial discrimination that hits women where it hurts, their wallets. Women currently earn 78 cents to every $1 earned by a man. When the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was signed by President Obama, Kennedy was a leader in its passing.
Another group Kennedy fought for are those in the mining industry, with his MINER Act legislation passed in 2006. Despite the new law being passed, Kennedy felt more needed to be done and he continued to call for safety investigations across the country concerning these workers.
He also worked tirelessly to pass the Protecting America’s Worker’s Act, which would expand the coverage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. “Enacting of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970 was a major step in guaranteeing the basic right of workers to be safe on the job. Since the law was signed, however, we have not substantially amended it to improve worker protections,” said Kennedy.
Although this bill has not yet become law, even after his death it will live on through the efforts of his fellow senators. He will be missed.