Expand Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 Must be Expanded to Provide Paid Leave

 By Peg Strobel and Bill Barclay

Oct. 3 is the expected day when federal legislation will be introduced calling for paid family and medical leave. DSA endorses a policy of paid parental family and medical leave. A group called MomsRising is hosting a “blog carnival” that day to draw attention to the issue and the legislation. We submitted the blog post below as DSA's contribution to the carnival.

 

Will the US join the rest of the modern world – and California, New Jersey and Rhode Island – by supporting, with real policies, family values?  That’s the question that the proposed expansion of family and medical leave raises. The extension to the act, to be introduced to the US Congress in early October, proposes paid leave for mothers at the birth of a child and also provides for paid leave when a child must be out of school or daycare for medical reasons.

This may sound radical – but it’s not. The US is the only one of the 38 countries, mostly wealthy but some not so wealthy, such as Mexico, Portugal and Turkey, that provides no paid maternity leave at the birth of a child. Why can all these countries afford it and we can’t?  Even the unpaid maternity leave guaranteed under the existing provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 is the shortest maternity leave of any of these countries.

There are many reasons for supporting the expansion of family and medical leave to include paid leave. It can be argued on the basis of social justice, that women, who bear the largest burden of ensuring the continuation of the species, should get economic support in doing so. It can be argued in terms of the well-being of children and families. The first few weeks of a child’s life are very important in terms of family bonding and laying the foundation for future well-being. "Family life" includes fathers, and over half of these countries also provide for some period of paternity leave.

The expansion can also be supported on the basis of an economics of fairness. The mothers who would likely benefit the most are those in the low-wage sector, often working more than one job. Insuring that these mothers have the opportunity to connect with their new child is a great investment in that child’s future, in terms of increasing the likelihood of success in school and reducing the chances of the child ending up in trouble with the law. Workers in the US low-wage sector are disproportionately female and include a significant portion of single moms. Today the only way this group of workers, this group of family members, can share the experience of the first few weeks of their children’s lives, or be present when the child must see a doctor, is to take unpaid leave. But these mothers (and fathers) can’t afford unpaid leave – even if their employer will honor the legal commitment to keep their job open. Almost 30 percent of low-income women with children can’t even afford an adequate supply of diapers. Without the financial support provided under a policy of paid leave these mothers can’t possibly take the time off to welcome their children into the world.

 In a polity and an economy organized for the well-being of all, there would be no opposition to paid family and medical leave. In such a political economy, the US would also not rank last on this measure. But, of course, there will be vocal opposition to any proposal for paid maternity (not to mention paternity) leave. Where will the conservative “family values” advocates be when this legislation is introduced? We’ll bet that those political “leaders” who talk the most about family values will lead the opposition. They won’t walk the walk. And if they prove our prediction wrong? Great!

 Arguments will also be made that business can’t simply afford this policy – especially in this difficult economy. Of course, that begs the question of why other economies prosper with paid leave policies. And, it is important to emphasize that the proposed act is financed by a trust fund created by a 0.2 percent levy on both employees and employers – up to a maximum of $4.36/week/employee. The US, the wealthiest country in the world, can’t afford that?

 Bill Barclay and Peg Strobel are members of Chicago DSA and are active in national DSA work.

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Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership.

DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

April 24, 2017
· 36 rsvps

DSA is in the process of forming a Queer Socialists Working Group. This call will cover a discussion of possible activities for the group, its proposed structure, assigning tasks, and reports on the revision of DSA's LGBT statement and on possible political education activities. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.

 

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
· 51 rsvps

Join Philadelphia DSA veteran activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 4-5:30pm ET, 3-4:30pm CT, 2-3:30pm MT, 1-2:30pm PT.

DSA Webinar: Talking About Socialism

May 02, 2017
· 6 rsvps

Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table in public.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

This training is at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central, 7:00pm Mountain, 6:00pm Pacific, 5:00pm Alaska, and 3:00pm Hawaii Time. Please RSVP.

Instructor:

Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

  • Have a quick response ready to go next time someone asks you about democratic socialism.
  • Create your own elevator pitch about democratic socialism and DSA.
  • Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism.
  • Think through the most important ideas you want to convey about democratic socialism.
  • Have a concise explanation of what DSA does, for your next DSA table, event or coalition meeting.

Training Details

  • This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources.
  • If you have a computer with microphone, speakers and good internet access, you can join via internet for free.
  • If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt <talt@igc.org> 607-280-7649.
  • If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt <schmittaj@gmail.com> 608-335-6568.
  • Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance, by midnight Sunday.

 

DSA New Member Orientation Call

May 06, 2017
· 45 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  2 pm ET; 1 pm CT; 12 pm MT; 11 am PT.  

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 69 rsvps

Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix. 9 ET/8 CT/7 MT/6 PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 18 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.