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Idea of the Day: We Need to Do More to Guarantee Workers Paid Leave

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Two decades ago our nation’s leaders took an important step toward bringing U.S. policies on family leave more closely in line with those of other developed nations. In signing the Family and Medical Leave Act into law, President Bill Clinton ensured that workers at companies with 50 or more employees in a 75-mile radius would be guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave annually for events such as the birth of a child or to care for a sick loved one.

President Clinton spoke in favor of the bill on both moral and economic grounds, calling it “a matter of pure common sense and a matter of common decency.” He also emphasized that, “Over the long run, the lessons of the most productive companies in the world … are that those who put their people first are those who will triumph in the global economy.” It was the first piece of legislation President Clinton signed into law during his time in office.

Twenty years later, however, U.S. policymakers have done little more to make our workplaces and workforce more competitive, productive, and secure. Less than 60 percent of American workers are currently eligible for the protections outlined in the Family and Medical Leave Act, meaning that 54 million Americans are forced to choose between their jobs and their families’ well-being. And lawmakers have done nothing more to guarantee that new mothers can afford to take time to care for a child or that workers can remain financially secure while caring for a sick or dying parent.

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To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

Print: Allison Preiss (economy, education, poverty)
202.478.6331 or apreiss@americanprogress.org

Print: Tom Caiazza (foreign policy, health care, energy and environment, LGBT issues, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7141 or tcaiazza@americanprogress.org

Print: Chelsea Kiene (women's issues, Legal Progress, Half in Ten Education Fund)
202.478.5328 or ckiene@americanprogress.org

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Tanya Arditi
202.741.6258 or tarditi@americanprogress.org

TV: Rachel Rosen
202.483.2675 or rrosen@americanprogress.org

Radio: Chelsea Kiene
202.478.5328 or ckiene@americanprogress.org

 

This is part of a regular column: Idea of the Day

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