February 5th will mark the 29th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA); legislation that the National Partnership was essential in passing in 1993 to ensure working people can take the time they need to care for themselves and their loved ones. Paid leave is fundamentally tied to other economic battles: equal pay and equitable healthcare to name a few. Build Back Better had the potential to ensure paid leave would be accessible to all. The momentum to support our labor force was there, yet partisanship and skepticism on the expenses of this type of program got in the way of providing paid leave for people that need it most. A well known fact, which reminds us of this harsh reality, is that the United States is one of the only wealthy countries in the world that does not provide adequate paid leave. How can we be global leaders and not allow our workers and families time off that they need?
If stories of the American people are not enough; numbers will have to suffice. A TIME article that follows this line of thinking states the truth that we want to avoid: “American capitalism doesn’t have a heart, so let’s start speaking loudly, and perhaps exclusively, in the language of the bottom line.” Calling our Congresspersons to listen may not be enough, in comparison to the power of lobbyists and business groups. The numbers to support the case for paid leave policies exist; economies are stronger when their workforce can work. And the U.S. is no different.
Turning our attention to states may be the stronghold we need to weather the lack of action from our national government. We’ve seen how state and local paid leave programs are successful; growth of existing programs to broaden the spectrum of paid leave coverage and inclusive definitions of “family” to provide for varying degrees of caregiving are just some examples of successful implementation. If this pandemic has proven anything to us, it’s that our economy needs family support policies like paid leave in order to thrive.
We shouldn’t lose hope though–despite a national paid leave policy being stalled, along with Build Back Better, there are tangible steps we can take to make our voices heard:
- Call your Members of Congress and tell them to pass emergency legislation for paid family and medical leave to help people as we continue through this pandemic
- Follow Paid Leave for All efforts and those of our coalition members
- Keep following us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram
We can’t give up the fight for paid leave now.