It’s undeniable. American capitalism does not like the American family: Despite the fact that both parents are working in over 60 percent of families with children, the U.S. remains the only developed country without a paid family and sick leave policy.
It’s also undeniable that the captains of industry and finance don’t like mothers: Over 63 percent of women with children under five work for a living. They too are unable to take time off to care for their young ones without losing pay.
So much for family values.
The Family and Medical Leave Act passed under Bill Clinton’s watch, which allows 12 weeks of unpaid time off is far from adequate. And with median family incomes declining by 15 percent from 1990 to 2012, working-class families are taking a beating.
The time has come to change this sorry state of affairs, where fathers and mothers are all too often forced to choose between going to work sick and/or sacrificing pay when they or their children become ill.
President Obama has a plan. Supporting the Healthy Families Act, sponsored by Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, the president is pushing for paid family and sick leave for all workers. Announced at the January State of the Union, the White House’s proposal would allow employees to earn seven sick days a year. In addition, Obama is calling for up to six weeks of paid leave after birth or adoption. Federal workers will receive the paid leave benefit immediately.
The demand for paid family and sick leave has been growing all across the country, particularly in the last election. President Obama is the first U.S. president to endorse and place the issue before the American people.
It is now up to us to force Congress to make it a matter of law. Presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett put it well when she recently titled an article on the issue Why we think paid leave is a worker’s right, not a privilege.
The pursuit of happiness requires economic security: Paid family and sick leave is a children’s issue, a women’s rights issue, a worker’s issue.
All pressure must be brought to bear to make it happen. Sign and circulate petitions, call your elected representatives, march and protest. Let creative unrest be the order of the day until the Healthy Families Act become the law of the land.
Photo: New Yorkers Deserve Paid Leave Facebook.