States Power the Movement for New Family-Friendly Standards

family caregiversWhy are so many people opposed to local communities deciding what’s best for the health and welfare of their residents?

Because these naysayers, fueled by lobbyists and financing from mega corporations, know such reforms lead to change statewide and nationally. Local wins provide living proof that minimum standards like paid sick days and paid family leave benefit families, businesses, public health and the economy. And growing victories tear to shreds the opponents’ predictions of doom.

That’s why Family Values @ Work is proud to present a blog carnival of Voices from the States in honor of the 21st anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The FMLA had a long birth – nine years in the making, twice passed by Congress and twice vetoed by George H. W. Bush, and finally passed and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. It was a great first step in establishing that caring for a family shouldn’t cost you your job.

But the law leaves out 40 percent of the work force. Many who are covered can’t use the time. According to a 2012 study, two and a half times as many people as in 2000 were eligible and needing leave but didn’t take it, mostly because they couldn’t afford it. FMLA has a narrow definition of family (child, legally married spouse, parent). Siblings, grandparents and grandchildren apparently aren’t family. Neither are same-sex couples unless they’re legally married and living in a state with marriage equality.

The FMLA also doesn’t cover routine illness. If you’re eligible, you can take FMLA leave to care for your mom after she has a stroke – but you can still be fired or docked pay for taking her to the doctor to get her blood pressure down and prevent a stroke in the first place.

The good news is, in all parts of our nation, activists are building broad and diverse coalitions, raising awareness of the need for and the enormous benefits from new workplace protections. In our blog carnival, you’ll hear about workers and business partners and other allies who have gotten involved. You’ll see the various kinds of change our member coalitions are working for – and winning (new paid sick days standards in 8 cities and one state, paid family leave in 3 states, and many more wins on the horizon). You’ll hear from strong labor partners.

And you’ll get a whiff of the momentum building throughout this land that will eventually bring us new national standards.

From President Obama to federal, state and local elected officials, to editorial boards in prominent dailies and small weeklies, the call is growing.

As the president put it in his State of the Union speech, every woman “deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job. A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or sick parent without running into hardship – and you know what, a father does, too. It’s time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode.”

Join our 21 coalitions in working to end the madness.

Ellen Bravo, former director of 9to5, National Association of Working Women, directs the Family Values @ Work Consortium, a network of state coalitions working for paid leave (www.familyvaluesatwork.org). Her most recent book is Taking on the Big Boys, or Why Feminism is Good for Families, Business and the Nation (Feminist Press, 2007). Among her other publications are The 9to5 Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment, The Job/Family Challenge: A 9to5 Guide (Not for Women Only,) a report on Quality Part-Time Options in Wisconsin, and an article in the American Prospect’s “Mother Lode” issue.

Image via iStockphoto/Jo Unruh

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