Laurie Trieger | Activist + Grassroots Organizer
An advocate for women and
the families who rely on them
Laurie Trieger currently serves as the Regional Outreach Director for Family Forward Oregon, a nonprofit that organizes and advocates for policies that help mothers and other family caregivers stay economically secure. As for her roots, she was raised by a single mom in Philadelphia. Her mother was very active in the women’s and anti-war movements at the time, so activism has always been a part of her life. Reproductive health justice was her first entry into activism—she volunteered and was later hired at the Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center for Women in Philly, an independent, feminist women’s health center providing a full range of reproductive care. This issue has stayed a part of her life through the present. In her words, “there is no single greatest fact to women’s economic stability and security than having agency over her own body.” She continues to serve as a reproductive health activist by volunteering with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon.
Laurie met her husband at a young age. Fueled with optimism and with their sights set on the west coast, they ended up in a small town on the Oregon coast. Her daughter was born soon thereafter and needing to make some changes that allowed for the well-being and growth of their new family, they moved to Eugene in 1987. She is now the parent of two adult children, grandparent of twin boys, and a former foster parent.
Before Family Forward Oregon, Laurie worked with FOOD for Lane County organizing gleaners (people who collect leftover produce) statewide and helped pass a crop gleaning tax credit to incentivize growers. She also served as the executive director for LCHAY- the Lane Coalition for Healthy Active Youth, focused on public policy a government planning to reduce childhood obesity.
What do you feel are some of the greatest challenges working mothers face locally and nationally?
Many talk about the glass ceiling—a barrier that keeps minorities and women from making professional advancements, regardless of their qualifications. At Family Forward Oregon, they talk about the maternal wall—a series of institutional and social discrimination encountered by women and mothers in the workplace. Combating these barriers and discrimination are what drove Laurie to a career in grassroots activism.
In Laurie’s view, our country is not designed for us women. It is instead designed and dependent on free labor and the intersections of this labor with care, namely provided by women and people of color. Workforce and social policies only increase barriers women experience in the workplace, and her work at Family Forward Oregon aims to combat and correct these. One of the latest legislative achievements Laurie was behind is the law ensuring Paid Sick Time for Oregon workers. Oregon Equal Pay Act of 2017 which restricts salary history inquiries when applying for a job, a practice that disproportionately affects women and people of color who may have been underpaid in the past or who left work for child rearing, leaving gaps in employment history. This law was passed in June 2016 and implemented statewide in January 2017. It ensures workers do not have to miss pay or be penalized for staying home to care for themselves or a loved one when they are ill or need to go to the doctor. While this law provides just 40 hours a year for each worker, Family Forward is currently working toward a more long-term, comprehensive Paid Family and Medical Leave law that would complement paid sick time and protect those experiencing more serious illnesses or injuries, or for the birth or adoption of a new child.
What has been your path into politics?
Soon after moving to Eugene, Laurie joined her local neighborhood council. She helped develop a park improvement plan that engaged local artists and community members in creating a safe and welcoming space for their growing families. In 2012 Laurie was recruited by Emerge Oregon which identifies, trains, and encourages Democratic women to run for office, get elected, at all levels of government. She completed the intensive, cohort-based six-month training program and now represents alumna on their statewide board of directors.
What words of wisdom do you have for women trying to get involved in politics or looking to take on a new challenge professionally or personally?
For those who are politically inclined, Laurie shares that you need to understand “your why.” Your motivations should be clear to you. For any women seeking office or looking to get involved in politics, Laurie says they should “do the research, get the timing right, and get the support you can trust.” For her, surrounding herself with smart, compassionate women who don’t let ego interfere has been one of the most important tools for her political engagement. Laurie also shared that there are so many ways to get involved in politics and if elected office is not your mission, activism is an honorable and rewarding path.
Remember to prioritize yourself. Laurie suffered a bad accident a few years back when she was hit by a car. Her accident and the long recovery period renewed her commitment to maintain a healthy and whole life. It also renewed her drive to fight for equitable workforce policies. While Laurie knew she was fortunate to have an employer that allowed her adequate recovery time and flexible work arrangements upon return, she understood this was rare so must keep up the fight and take care of herself in the process. No one should have to rely on luck or the good graces of an employer to support themselves and their family.
Laurie reminds women that we are all experts in our own lives. Our real lived experiences give us invaluable insights and understanding about what we- and others- need and deserve to be healthy; physically, mentally, and economically. We should trust ourselves. When taking on a challenge, she says to “start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can.”