Last Friday, I was in Los Angeles, CA and took part in the second leg of the nationwide “Lead on Leave: Empowering Working Families Across America” tour. On this tour, Obama Administration officials are fanning out across the country to talk with everyday Americans about why we need to catch up with the rest of the developed world and implement sensible paid leave and paid sick days policies -- why we need to #LeadOnLeave. (Check out Secretary Perez’s stop in Seattle here.)
While in Los Angeles, I headed to Manifesto Café for breakfast, a restaurant that seeks to protect workers’ rights and give community members access to quality, affordable food. The owners spoke about how they feel that they can retain their staff and be great employers, in part by looking out for their workers and paying them more than the minimum wage.
Over coffee and muffins, I spoke with business leaders, advocates, and City Council and local elected officials about why workers deserve access to paid leave and paid sick days. One of the participants described how his wife recently had a baby, and how she needed help at home in the beginning. He said that because he works for an employer that offers no paid leave, he couldn’t be there when his wife really needed him. He described how he just couldn’t give up a few days’ pay, noting that it’s when your child is born that you need your wages most.
President Obama believes that parents shouldn’t have to choose between caring for their children when they need it most and earning wages to keep their family afloat. That’s why he proposed $2 billion in new funds to encourage states to develop paid family and medical leave programs in his FY2016 budget.
The United States is the only country in the developed world not to offer a single day of paid maternity leave. But California has taken action on this by allowing workers to take time off to care for an ill family member or bond with their new children. They’ve seen the rewards -- after the state implemented their paid family leave policy, working hours and earnings increased by almost 10 percent among mothers, once their children were 1-3 years old. And, by implementing paid leave California has helped lower-income women (who were less able to afford to use unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act) take time off to care for and bond with their infants.
While there is clearly much work to do, California and other states and localities, such as Eugene, OR and Philadelphia, PA, are showing the benefits that are reaped by workers and businesses when we #LeadOnLeave.
Now, dig deeper: