I want to commend the President for taking steps to bring the plight of working families to the forefront. From creating the first ever Summit on Working Families last June, to supporting the Healthy Families Act which would give seven days of paid sick leave to workers, he is taking steps to address the issue: that working parents (especially mothers) lack the support they need to raise their families.
But President Obama is not being BOLD enough. He recently signed a memorandum that gives federal workers six weeks of paid family leave after the birth of a child… six weeks. If FMLA gives 12 weeks (though unpaid) why did he not go all the way and propose 12 weeks of paid leave?
Of course, this isn’t enough really. Doctors recommend six months of exclusive breastfeeding. I’ve already written to Congress to say we need to provide paid leave if we want to support breastfeeding moms. If we really wanted to do things right, we would align laws with what doctors recommend. We would probably have healthier parents, (less stress about finances) and healthier kids (breastfeeding has shown to have positive effects on children’s future health).
Healthy parents and healthier kids would lower healthcare costs … so really, it would be better for the economy. It would also be, SURPRISE… family friendly. Isn’t that what the USA claims to be, a country that values families? Unfortunately that seems to be all talk because those old boys in Washington don’t seem to know what family-friendly policies are and how they would help average Americans. (If you’re wondering how the US isn’t family friendly, I’ve made a list for you.)
The United States, being the only industrialized country that does not have a national paid family leave policy, is years behind other countries… and not only other “developed” countries, but other “developing” countries as well. According to UNICEF, all countries in Latin America give mothers 100 percent salary for a minimum of 12 weeks (18 in some countries.) Wondering how the USA stacks up to other countries around the globe? Here’s a short list:
Virtually every country has some form of paid leave… why can’t the USA do it? In a country where “family values” are thrown left and right… why is it so difficult to support working families?
Working families have bills to pay… bills that don’t go away during maternity leave. Mortgages, electricity, car payments… It is not like we can call the bank and say “listen I’m going to have to put that mortgage payment on hold for the next few months.”
So I say, yes talking about working families, advocating for states to create their own plans (currently only three states have some form of paid leave—California, Rhode Island and New Jersey—and they don’t even offer 100 percent salary payments, just a percentage of salary paid.) and supporting a more flexible work environment are all great things… but like I said, it’s time to be bold, it’s time to demand what working families need. It’s not time to think small… it’s time to think big… President Obama can make a huge difference in the lives of working families and future generations of families.
The Hill, a site covering all thing on Capitol Hill, are calling paid family leave the Democrats’ “next big issue.” But it’s not the Democrats’ big issue; it is everyone’s issue. I am hoping that those in Congress will realize that soon enough… supporting families is the American thing to do.
Practice what you preach Congress, support families. Pass a paid family leave act that will help working families and strengthen our communities. BE FAMILY FRIENDLY.
Photo credit: Flickr.com/nezemnaya photo