As part of MomsRising's Blog Carnival on the anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Carol Joyner, national policy director for the Labor Project for Working Families, wrote that FMLA is only the first step in strengthening and protecting working families. She argues that paid sick leave is an important goal that we should pursue:
Many unions also negotiated expansions to the law, reducing the wait time, increasing the period to recover from a serious illness, welcoming a newborn, or being there for a parent in their last days. Other local unions bargained for paid family leave—imagine the difficulty for millions of Americans, having to go to work when they need to be at home caring for a new baby or a sick spouse. For many union members, this isn’t an issue. In fact, recent estimates suggest that 46% of unionized people have paid leave compared with only 29% of nonunion workers. This is why in 2002, the California Labor Federation and the Labor Project for Working Families led a campaign to win the nation’s first Paid Family Leave law in California.
We can all do better. In this 20th anniversary of the FMLA, a landmark law that is all about family, let us remember that 177 other nations have a paid family leave system— the United States has none. We essentially ask hardworking people, who’ve put in the time and played by the rules to forgo a paycheck when they need it the most—recovery from an illness, welcoming a beautiful baby or supporting a sick spouse. Our national leave program should be robust. It should include every single individual who works for a living; all parents regardless of gender; a broader definition of family; and, above all, real compensation.
Other writers for the blog carnival also pointed out the importance of extending the right to paid sick leave to all workers.
Now, 20 years after the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, the time has come for Congress to expand the law to cover more families and provide paid leave for workers. California and New Jersey have passed paid family leave programs with very positive results. Our nation’s economy, our productivity and our competitiveness benefit when workers are able to meet their demands at home and on the job.
The Family and Medical Leave Act was a major milestone, but more needs to be done to help families dealing with medical emergencies and family needs. Paid leave is essential. Depriving workers of their income during times of crisis in family life is something no hard-working American should experience. No American should have to choose between the job they need and the family they love.
Further, family leave policies in many other industrialized countries provide for paid leave, but the FMLA only provides for unpaid leave. Expanding the FMLA would enable more workers to meet the needs of their families without having to compromise their income and job security.
Likewise, we need to put in place a paid leave program that ensures that all workers can actually afford to take leave. Today, for too many workers, the FMLA remains an unfulfilled promise, since many simply can’t take time off from work without pay. This is particularly true for low-wage workers, who are least likely to have paid leave voluntarily provided by their employers and who can least afford to take it.
Right now, campaigns are under way nationally and in states to make sure people who are sick or have a sick child can stay home from work rather than infect others or risk escalating an illness. It’s time for a basic floor of paid sick days like the Healthy Families Act would provide. Despite landslide public support, the bill hasn’t made its way out of Congress.
Doesn’t it pain you to hear flu epidemic news reports urging us to stay home if we’re sick—when more than 40 million private-sector workers don’t have any paid sick leave at all?
If we won the FMLA, we can win the Healthy Families Act. You can help by signing here.