As Trump administration officials and members of Congress consider paid leave and budget priorities, more than 340 organizations representing a range of demographic groups from more than 40 states sent a letter to Congress today urging members to support an inclusive paid family and medical leave policy and to reject alternatives that leave people behind. Specifically, the groups want to make clear that the parental-leave-only plan included in the administration’s FY 2018 budget proposal would do more harm than good and should not be considered a legitimate paid leave plan. Signatories include advocacy groups, direct service organizations and private sector businesses.
“Paid leave in name only will serve no one,” the letter reads. “Disparities in access to leave, changing demographics and the realities working families face today require that any meaningful national plan be comprehensive and inclusive. Responsible governance requires that any plan be affordable, cost-effective and sustainably funded with new revenue, not with cuts to existing programs. Any plan that fails to meet these tests – and especially one that does so in the context of a budget proposal that would do irreparable damage to the health, nutrition, income stability and well-being of millions of people across the country – is unacceptable.”
Among the reasons the group calls Trump’s parental leave proposal “inadequate and unworkable” are: its exclusion of the more than 75 percent of people in the country who take family or medical leave to care for family members with serious medical conditions, or for their own serious health issue; the stress it would put on the unemployment insurance system by restricting access and imposing cuts that could mean higher taxes for employers; and that it would not meet the 12-week minimum established by the Family and Medical Leave Act more than 24 years ago.
Instead, the group points to lessons from state programs already in place in California, New Jersey and Rhode Island – and, soon, New York and the District of Columbia – as well as strong support among small business owners and voters across party lines, to argue for a comprehensive paid family and medical leave standard. They say any plan must apply to everyone, include the full range of reasons people need paid leave, offer substantial benefits in terms of both wage replacement and length of leave, protect workers from retaliation for taking leave, and be funded sustainably and responsibly.
“A national paid leave plan that offers only leave to new parents, leaves millions of people behind and ignores years of research is not what the country needs,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “The remarkable, broad-based support this letter garnered shows policy details matter when it comes to paid leave because there is so much at stake for working people, employers and our economy,” added Vicki Shabo, vice president at the National Partnership. “There is real need and demand for paid family and medical leave in this country and growing consensus around the problem, but people know that not just any plan will do.”
Earlier this month, the National Partnership published an issue brief on the need for a paid leave plan that includes leave for people caring for seriously ill or injured family members and for their own serious health conditions – two areas excluded from the Trump proposal. The brief, Our Aging, Caring Nation, highlights specific states that would be particularly underserved by a national plan that does not address these needs. A public service announcement from the National Partnership, “Time To Care,” similarly challenges viewers to consider what it would mean for their families and communities if certain care needs are excluded from a national paid leave plan.
For more on the national coalition of organizations pushing for paid family and medical leave, visit SupportPaidLeave.org.