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America’s Scarlet Letter

We need paid leave and we need it now.

Today we’re taking one giant step closer to that goal. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand are introducing the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (the FAMILY Act), a bill to provide up to 12 weeks of partial wage replacement to workers who need to take time out to care for themselves and their families.

It’s really very simple. Americans who work hard and play by the rules should not have to risk a nose dive into poverty just to care for their loved ones. It’s unacceptable.

Times have changed – it’s clear. Women are in the workforce in greater numbers than ever before and often heading single-parent families, or in families that rely on two incomes to make ends meet. And times aren’t changing back.

Lots of other countries recognize this. In fact, we are the only industrialized country that doesn’t offer a paid leave program for our workers. And the need isn’t being met by the private sector. Only 12 percent of the workforce has paid family leave through their employers.

Low-wage workers – those who can least afford to take unpaid leave to care for their loved ones -- are far less likely than other workers to have access to paid leave: only four percent of low-wage workers have access to paid family leave, as compared to 22 percent of high-wage workers.

By denying paid family leave to our citizens, we’ve earned ourselves a big old scarlet letter among our peer nations. The introduction of a federal paid leave bill is the first step toward casting off that scarlet letter.

Although it may be a matter of time, in a country filled with women breadwinners who make up half the electorate, paid leave is inevitable. Congressional offices will now have to decide whether to get on the right side of history by supporting this bill.

Comments

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