Bucking Trump, Democrats introduce family and medical leave bill
It Bends Toward Justice

WASHINGTON – While Trumpites in Congress are gearing up to destroy the Affordable Care Act, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D.-N.Y., and Representative Rosa DeLauro, D.-Conn., have re-introduced a bill that would guarantee that workers receive at least two-thirds pay for up to 12 weeks when they take time off because of their own health conditions – including pregnancy and childbirth – or to care for others in their family.

The Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act is modeled on programs in California, New Jersey and Rhode Island that create self-sustaining funds to ensure workers can earn a portion of their wages for up to 12 weeks of leave. New York will implement a similar program next year.

The Gillibrand-DeLauro proposal would cover firms with 50 or more workers. Employees and employers would each make contributions of just 0.2 percent of wages, or two cents for every $10 earned. This will amount to an average contribution of approximately $2 per week per worker from a worker’s paycheck, according to the Center for American Progress.

The creation of this shared employee-employer fund would make paid leave affordable to all employers.

For details about the bill, click here.

The need for the FAMILY Act was illustrated on a media conference call February 7 the day Gillibrand and DeLauro introduced the bill.

Mackenzie Nicholson, a young mother, explained that she has a five-week-old girl, a three-year-old boy, and a mother who developed a brain tumor last year. “I had to use all of my vacation time to care for my Mom,” she said, and couldn’t take time off to care for her newborn.

She said, now “I have no vacation, nor does my husband. My only option now is to take my daughter to work. I don’t know what we will do if the baby gets sick – or if Mom gets sick again.”

According to Claire Zillman, writing in Fortune magazine’s online newsletter, Most Powerful Women, “Just 14% of the U.S workforce is currently covered by an employer-sponsored paid family leave program and access to the benefit falls starkly along income lines.

“Workers in the highest income quartile are 3.5 times more likely to have access to paid family leave than those in the lowest income quartile. “

The United States remains the only member nation in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development without a national policy mandating paid maternity leave, Zillman writes.

She also reported on a  new study from the Boston Consulting Group “that laid out the business case for providing paid family leave.

“After examining 250 companies that offer the benefit,” Zillman writes, “[the study] found that the pros of a paid family leave policy – greater ability to attract and retain talent; improved employee morale and productivity; more diverse company leadership teams … — outweigh the cons, namely cost.”

Zillman quotes the Boston Consulting Group as saying “The companies we studied consistently reinforced the message that paid family leave offers a healthy return.”

When announcing the re-introduction of the bill, DeLauro said “Too many workers are not paid enough to make ends meet. When families like the Nicholsons have to deal with major medical problems while not getting paid leave, many ‘go over the edge’ financially.”

This is the third time Gillibrand and DeLauro have introduced the FAMILY Act. They did so in 2013 and 2015. In the last session, the bill was read twice in the Senate and was referred to the Committee on Finance, but got no farther. In the House, it got as far as the Subcommittee on Social Security, Zillman reports.


Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.