Paid family leave, sick leave in presidential race

While campaigning in New Mexico, Sen. Barack Obama outlined his plans to support paid family leave and paid sick days policies in every state:

Today, 78 percent of workers covered by FMLA don’t take leave because it isn’t paid. That’s just not fair. You shouldn’t be punished for getting sick or dealing with a family crisis.

That’s why I’ll require employers to provide all of their workers with seven paid sick days a year. And I’ll support a 50-state strategy to adopt paid-leave systems, and set aside $1.5 billion to fund it.

For clarity’s sake, the statistic Obama cites needs to be tweaked a bit. Properly stated, 78% of those workers who needed family leave but didn’t take it, said it was because they couldn’t afford to go unpaid.

John McCain, for his part, voted to pass the original Family and Medical Leave Act back in 1993, but so far has remained mum when it comes to expansion of family leave.

Federal funding for paid-leave systems would make it easier for states to find budget room for these modern workplace standards, and help quash the economic “race to the bottom” that, left unchecked, is squeezing middle-class families for short-term profit at the expense of long-term productivity and workforce health.

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