Using Paid Family Leave to Bolster Family Values

We live in an economy overflowing with abundance, and yet our family values are undercut by the relentlessness of work. We can do better for our families and our children. We are proposing family leave with partial replacement of lost wages for all workers, so that more working people can take time off to care for their families without jeopardizing their livelihoods.

In 1989 Washington state took an important first step in family leave legislation, enabling workers to care for their newborn and newly adopted children, as well as children who were terminally ill, without the threat of losing their jobs. Washington state’s leadership on this issue helped pave the way for the Family and Medical Leave Act passed by the U.S. Congress in 1993. This law broadened family leave to include leave for the care of seriously ill family members, and it required companies to continue health care coverage for workers on family leave. A Congressional study found that the effects of this Act have been positive for both workers and employers, resulting in higher levels of job satisfaction and productivity.

However, this legislation excludes workers in businesses with fewer than 50 employees from legally-protected family leave, and fails to provide for any financial support for workers on family leave. As a result of these limitations:

  • 45% of workers in the United States aren’t protected by family leave laws, and
  • Two-thirds of the workers who need but do not take family leave say they cannot afford to do so.
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