Florida will have a new law that could save women’s lives

by Jasmen Rogers

Very rarely do we have an opportunity to advance good laws in the Florida Legislature, especially when our legislators are too busy passing laws that hurt women, working families living in poverty, and our Florida democracy.

During Florida’s 2019 Legislative Session, legislators stripped away the rights of our local government, decided to arm our teachers, reduced affordable housing, and threatened the lives of immigrants in our state… all the while going against Floridians’ desire to see formerly incarcerated folks have their voting rights restored.

But our women-led coalition called Femme Agenda, alongside our statewide partners and hundreds of community members, fought hard to defend our homes, our bodies, and our families like never before. And even though there is so much more work to do in Florida, we also won huge victories, specially for women!

One of those victories is the Unemployment for Domestic Violence Survivors bill which was approved unanimously by the legislature and is waiting for the Governor’s signature to become a law in Florida.

This bill ensures that eligible survivors of domestic violence have financial security when choosing to leave a violent relationship for the safety of themselves, their family, and their coworkers.

Many women are forced to  stay or return to an abusive relationship because they don’t have the money to survive and keep their family safe. Once signed into law, this bill will remove a financial barrier for survivors looking to leave an abusive relationship and will also help employers keep other employees safe from workplace violence.

Simply put, this bill will save lives.

Thanks to the leadership of Representative Dotie Joseph (D-Miami), Senator Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville), and the bi-partisan support in both chambers of the Florida Legislature, Florida has now joined 41 other states that allow domestic violence survivors to qualify for unemployment compensation benefits.

The Femme Agenda coalition that advocated for this bill includes the Miami Workers Center, Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health – Florida Latina Advocacy Network, and The New Florida Majority,

Pushing for a Femme Agenda in Florida means prioritizing the most vulnerable in our state, and this bill does just that. Because we know domestic violence impacts mostly women (disproportionately Black and brown), this tremendous victory will impact the well being of many Florida families regardless of race, economic or social status, or party affiliation. We know that this timely legislation creates a path forward for us and other organizations to center the struggles and experiences of women across this state.

Through this work over the past several years, survivors of violence were able to organize and reclaim their lives beyond victimhood for the first time. Women used their stories of survivorship to lead a coalition that mobilized and educated legislators towards this victory.

As this important piece of legislation awaits the signature of the Governor to become law, we know this work is merely a piece of what’s necessary to change the conditions for Black and brown women and femmes in Florida.

The fight to prevent violence against women is a multi-faceted fight that our Florida Legislature must be committed to for years to come. We look forward to leading in that work alongside survivors, our members, and community partners… towards a Florida that works for all of us.

Jasmen Rogers, Staff and Policy Director for the Miami Workers Center. Follow them on @MiamiWorkersCtr

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