Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Paid Family Leave: Why Not?

Wouldn't it be nice if every employee who had an illness, pregnancy, new adoption, divorce, or other family issue that tied up his/her attention, automatically qualified for a predetermined amount of "paid family leave"? Well, actually...no, it wouldn't, because many employers can't afford to pay for that extra leave. What we've already seen even for government employees, as the Obama administration has added mandatory "benefits" for full-time employees, is that people are being cut back to the maximum amount of part-time work and no benefits.

Wouldn't it be nice if more people could work in smaller, more flexible businesses where everything wasn't regulated to death, where everyone automatically got flexible work schedules and a share of the profits instead of having to punch a time clock and bicker over how to categorize every task done in the office?

Wouldn't it be nice if these unions moved into the countries where too much of the United States' work is actually being done, and left the United States free to recover from what greedheads in unions have already done for our economy?

Wouldn't it be nice if people could just pay their neighbors to do things their neighbors were willing and able to do for them, without having to worry about all the paperwork and regulations involved in possibly being considered to have "employed" an "employee"?

During the past year, which has included many days without even food, I've often thought about certain people I know who are literally choking to death on their own dirt because they're not paying me or some other person who might be willing to clean their homes. They're not especially dirty people; they're just older people who have developed respiratory diseases that limit their ability to remove dust and mold from their homes. You walk into their houses and see nice, tidy, decorator-approved arrangements of furniture...and then the air hits you...and then you realize that all they're able to do about the air, by now, if they're able to do that, is open a window and let in a little hot, damp, polluted air from outside, which soon makes the indoor atmosphere even harder to breathe. You can fix this situation. You have fixed situations like this before. These people know that, if they hired you, they might even be able to go back to work. Possibly that's why Miss Jane Doe hasn't hired me; she doesn't want to have to get off the disability pension and look for a boring nine-to-five job. Then again, Mrs. Joe Jones, who is still living with her husband doesn't need a nine-to-five job; she can afford to be Mr. Jones's full-time caretaker, and she'd like to be able to do that. What's keeping her from getting the help she really needs is fear of the kind of red tape that this young activist thinks she wants to increase. She wouldn't know how to "be an employer."

No, it wouldn't be nice if government forced people to do things that might sound nice for other people. It would be much nicer if government got out of the way and allowed people to do the things that actually are useful to other people....if, for example, instead of forcing the company to offer paid leave to a new mother or not, government got out of the way and allowed the company and the new mother to discuss options like flex time, working from home, and above all paying for what she actually did rather than for her "hours."

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I am one of the millions of workers in the United States without paid family leave. Like so many others, I didn’t know this or the hard truth about access to paid leave in this country until my own family’s future depended on it. But unlike many others, I’m also an elected official – and I’m tired of lawmakers refusing to make paid family leave a priority.
Join me in sending the nation's biggest political party leaders a clear message: The American people want to know – in your party platform this year – how you’re going to fix our country’s paid family and medical leave problem.
My story starts a little more than a year ago when I became pregnant. I was 31 years old, working full time, and assumed I would be able to take paid time off – time I saw as critical to recovering from childbirth, ensuring my newborn’s good nutrition, keeping up with her pediatric visits, and forming the bonds proven to give her an early sense of security and self-esteem.
Instead, I discovered my employer had no paid family leave policy, though fortunately I could access disability leave as a birth mother. Meanwhile, my husband’s employer also provided no paid family leave. He was able to put together a week off using his vacation days.
Of course, our story is neither unique nor as dire as many others face – we were able to make things work, thanks to family. But it got me asking questions.
With the help of my union, CWA Local 4502, and policy experts at Innovation Ohio, we produced a report that explored the depth of the problem. We discovered that just 13 percent of workers in the United States have access to paid family leave, and among low-wage workers, it’s a paltry four percent. Only a few states have paid leave laws for private sector workers, and a fraction of states and cities have policies for public employees. There is no national paid family leave law. This means that when workers welcome a new child, have a seriously ill parent, or adopt a baby – which are just a few of the reasons people in this country need leave to meet family and medical needs – most are left having to choose between their families and their economic stability. Some even risk losing their jobs altogether.
Yet the benefits of paid family leave are irrefutable. Paid leave strengthens women and families by enabling women to preserve their incomes (especially important when we are paid, on average, only 79 cents for every dollar paid to men – and it’s markedly worse for women of color) and manage the critical caregiving that data show we still disproportionately provide. Paid leave also reduces economic disparities. Think about it: When taking leave without pay is the only option, low-wage workers have the fewest options. And paid leave yields a stronger workforce, stronger businesses, and a stronger economy too because it improves employee retention and productivity.
At eight months pregnant, I took a leap and ran for the Columbus City Council. I knew that if I won – and I did – I’d have the opportunity to tackle this issue head on. Now, I’m working on a paid leave proposal for city employees. It’s a start. And as I push for advances in my city, state lawmakers and advocates are working on a bill that would apply to many more workers and enable Ohio to join the four states paving the way toward a national paid leave law.
But why should access to paid leave depend on where you live or your employer? The current state of things is totally out of step with the realities of the workforce, especially when existing policies have shown how well paid leave works, and nearly four in five voters say they want a national paid leave standard. Political candidates are talking about the issue, and thankfully some are even running on it. The national conversation has almost reached a fever pitch. It’s time for more.
This summer, leaders of the Republican Party are coming to my home state to nominate a candidate for president at their convention, and soon after, the Democratic Party will do the same in Philadelphia. I want to hear how both parties plan to fix the fact that the United States is the only developed country in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity leave for new mothers, and one of a handful that do not guarantee paid paternity leave for new fathers.
If you agree, let’s send a clear message to the leaders of both major political parties that, at their conventions this summer, we want to hear how they plan to fix America’s paid family and medical leave problem – and we want to see the issue addressed in their party platforms. Sign this petition today.
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