Building an Economy that Works for Everyone

Urgent! Tell WA state senators to improve – not repeal – paid family leave


Via, a member of the Washington Family Leave Coalition.

This is no “Chicken Little” or “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” situation: Washington families, and families-to-be, need your help today.

What’s going on? In 2007, we came together to pass a paid family leave law so that parents could spend 5 weeks at home after the birth or arrival of a new child. In the tangled way of legislative politics, the implementation of this bill is still being worked out.

But instead of pushing for forward movement, some state legislators in Olympia are trying to go backwards and repeal the law before it can start.[1]

*Tell your Washington State Senators that they should be working for families, not against us. And to vote “NO” on SB 5159:

A new life, a new dad. [flicker creative commons]

A new life, a new dad. [flicker creative commons]

It’s time to move forward, not backwards. In fact, Washington State Senator Karen Keiser and Representative Tami Green just introduced bills to move forward the implementation of paid family leave in Washington–and that’s the direction we should go. [2] (We’ll update you on that bill soon).

Why is paid family leave so important?

Paid family leave gives kids a healthier start. It gives families the economic security they need to stay out of poverty at a critical time. It can even benefit businesses bottom line.This saves everyone–from parents to taxpayers to businesses–money in the long-run.

That’s right. Studies show that paid family leave after the birth of a child combats poverty, gives children a healthy start, lowers infant mortality by more than 20%[3] and helps lower the wage gap between women and men. [4]

Yet, in the United States, only 49% of mothers are able to cobble together paid leave following childbirth by using sick days, vacation days, disability leave, and maternity leave. And 51% of new mothers lack any paid leave — so some take unpaid leave, some quit, some even lose their jobs just when they need them most.[5] No wonder having a baby is a leading cause of “poverty spells” in our nation!

In addition, a number of studies have shown that maternity leave has a positive impact on how long women breastfeed and thus on the long-term health of the child and mother.This is important because major medical authorities recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for their first six months because of significant health benefits for both mother and child.Despite the government’s Healthy People 2010 breastfeeding goals, only 13.6% of U.S. infants are exclusively breastfeeding and only 43% are breastfeeding at all at six months of age.[6] Recently the U.S. Surgeon General called paid family leave policies important for families and babies health linking the ability of new moms to take paid leave to increased rates of breastfeeding.[7]

Paid family leave isn’t just good for families it also benefits employers.A recent study of the California Paid Leave program showed that most employers found that the Paid Family Leave had a positive effect on productivity, profitability/performance, turnover and employee morale.[8] In addition, paid family leave helps level the playing field for many small businesses which wouldn’t normally be able to afford leave since the majority of legislative proposals for paid family are paid for by small employee paycheck deductions and NOT by businesses. It’s a win-win.

Butwhile 177 other countries have some form of paid leave for new moms after the birth of a child,the U.S. isn’t one of them, an omission that sets up our families for failure.[9]

*Don’t forget to take a moment now to tell your Washington StateSenatorsthat they should be working for families, not against us. And to vote “NO” on SB 5159:

*And please forward this email to at least three friends in Washington State who you think might take action too.

Together were a more powerful voice for women and families.

-Kristin, Ruth, Sarah, and the while MomsRising team

P.S.Can you take a moment to share your experiences with family leave(or your experiences with a lack of family leave)? What did you–or your friends or family members–do when a new child arrived?

[1] Seattle Times: Dueling bills introduced on paid family leave law

[2] ibid

[3] Sakiko Tanaka. Parental Leave and Child Health Across OECD Countries. Economic Journal 115, no. 501 (2005)

[4] Waldfogel, Jane. Understanding the ‘Family Gap’ in Pay for Women with Children. Journal of Economic Perspectives 12, no. 1 (1998), 137-156

[5] Bureau of Labor Statistics. Press Release: Employment Characteristics of Families 2009. May 2010

[6] Centers for Disease Control. Breastfeeding Report Card, United States. 2010

[7] Department of Health and Human Services. Press Release: Everyone Can Help Make Breastfeeding Easier, Surgeon General Says in Call to Action. Jan. 20, 2011

[8] Applebaum, Eileen and Ruth Milkman. Leaves that Pay: Employer and Worker Experiences with Paid Family Leave in California. January 2011

[9] Raising the Global Floor

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