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“Up-And-Running Now”: Hillary’s “Establishment Politics” Has Already Delivered Some Of The Paid Leave Sanders Promises

The negative reviews of and cascading events from Bernie Sanders’ less-than-deft Q&A with the New York Daily News earlier this week continue. But there is one additional passage from that interview that deserves, but has largely escaped, notice (emphasis mine):

Alright, I believe that in the midst of the kinds of crises that we face with a disappearing middle class and massive levels of income and wealth inequality, the only major country on earth not guarantee to healthcare to all people, only major country not to provide paid family and medical leave, it is time to get beyond establishment politics. So to put your question in maybe a simpler way, is she a candidate of the establishment? The answer is, of course she is.

This is an astonishing thing for Sanders to say for a couple of reasons. First because, as he surely knows, it was the “establishment” Bill Clinton who, as one of his first acts as president in 1993, signed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) after it had twice been vetoed by his predecessor. Second (and maybe Sanders doesn’t know this; few do), having signed the FMLA providing up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to workers to care for a newborn or a sick family member, Clinton, with the active help of his wife, became the first president to use federal power to provide paid leave to American workers.

I know this because I wrote the speech in which he unveiled the policies. It was a commencement address delivered on May 23, 1999 at Grambling State University, an historically black college in norther Louisiana that boasts, among other things, one of the best marching bands in the country. In the speech, Clinton announce two executive actions. First, federal workers would be allowed to use the sick leave they’d earned to take time off to care for other sick family members. Second, and potentially more important, states would be allowed to let public and private sector workers who have paid into the state’s federally regulated unemployment insurance systems to collect payments from those systems while they’re on leave caring for a newborn or a newly adopted child. Having attended the meetings where these policies were hashed out, I can assure you that they were a joint East Wing/West Wing initiative. The main person behind them was Nicole Rabner, who was the First Lady’s senior domestic policy adviser as well as a special assistant to the president.

The first policy (paid leave for federal workers) is still in place today. The second (allowing states to tap their unemployment insurance systems for paid leave) was overturned by George W. Bush, who deemed it a harmful imposition on businesses. But four states (California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Washington) that have separate Temporary Disability Systems, which are not federally regulated, used those systems to create basically the same voluntary family leave programs the Clintons were trying to incentivize. A major study of California’s, the largest and longest running paid leave program, found that it improved children’s health outcomes without measurably harming business productivity.

So the “establishment” politician Hillary Clinton can rightly claim a share of the credit for the paid leave programs that exist in the United States. They’re far from universal, but they’re real, up-and-running programs that seem to be working as advertised. And the reason they’re not more wide spread is not “establishment politics”–they are in fact the result of establishment politics–but Republican resistance.

Both Clinton and Sanders sponsored bills in the Senate to expand family leave that didn’t pass, and each has put forward plans to do so if they’re elected president (though the plans differ in how they’re financed). So both are, for progressives, on the “right side” of the issue. But only one of them has actually accomplished anything on this, and it isn’t Bernie Sanders.

 

By: Paul Glastris, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 8, 2016

April 9, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Bill Clinton, Family and Medical Leave Act, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Human Society Has Begun To Work Against Itself”: If Republicans Cared About Families, They’d Stop Blocking Paid Leave

Several participants at the Republican debate last week spoke fervently about putting Rosa Parks’ image on the $10 bill. They also spoke fervently in support of a decision by Congress to defund Planned Parenthood—an organization that counted Rosa Parks among the members of its national board.

The contradiction would have been obvious and painful to Ms. Parks. Like many of us, she’d have been bewildered by the priorities of candidates who have held vote after vote on shutting down vital health services for women, but won’t even schedule a hearing on the FAMILY Act, a bill to provide affordable family and medical leave. It’s impossible to care about families and leave communities bereft of services for contraception, mammograms and other cancer screenings, and dozens more critical health services for women. It’s also impossible to call yourself “pro-life” and oppose a badly-needed, common sense program to make family and medical leave affordable to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member.

In 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act passed Congress with bipartisan support. The FMLA provided up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for care of a new child or a serious personal illness or that of a child, spouse or parent. Republicans as well as Democrats saw that valuing family meant making sure people could care for family members without losing their jobs or health insurance. Many of the state and local campaigns within Family Values @ Work’s national network have leaders from both parties—including the numerous Republicans leading the charge for the Family Care Act in Georgia.

So what’s the problem in the nation’s capital today?

The FMLA is now 22 years old. While it constituted a major breakthrough and established the principle that having a family shouldn’t cost you your job, the leave remains out of reach for millions—some because they’re not covered by its protections (two-fifths of the nation’s workforce), and many who are eligible because they cannot afford to take unpaid leave. According to a study done for the Department of Labor (DOL), nearly one in four employed mothers who are pregnant go back to work within two weeks of giving birth—with disastrous results for maternal and infant health. Others who take the time they need to heal and bond with a child often face financial hardship.

A new report from the DOL highlights the high cost of doing nothing—lost family income, lower earnings and weaker job security for women, more stress and worse health, worse outcomes for children and seniors, and fewer men taking leave. Businesses also sustain losses in replacing experienced and skilled staff. Our nation suffers in comparison to all our economic competitors.

The lack of paid leave adds to the growing inequality in our nation. A mere 5 percent of low-wage and part-time workers have any pay during leave. And, as the report points out, there are costs harder to calculate: “We are compromising the needs of our children and our parents. We are sacrificing the fundamental value of spending time with one’s family.”

Pope Francis called the family “a great test bench” for how we organize work. “When the organization of work holds it hostage or, in fact, places obstacles in its way, then we are certain that the human society has begun to work against itself!”

If elected officials are serious about promoting family values, they need to stop wasting time on frivolous bills that are a detriment to women and their families and pass the FAMILY Act, a bill that actually helps families everywhere.

 

By: Ellen Bravo, Director of Family Values @ Work; The New Republic, September 24, 2015

September 25, 2015 Posted by | Family and Medical Leave Act, Family Values, Planned Parenthood, Women's Health | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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