Stark, Miller help pitch federal paid leave bill

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez; House Ways and Means Health Subcomittee Chairman Pete Stark, D-Fremont; Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma; and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, today introduced the “Family Leave Insurance Act of 2008,” which would provide workers 12 weeks of paid leave for maternity or paternity; to care for a sick family member; to recover from an illness; or to deal with emergencies related to someone’s armed-services deployment.

That’s substantially more than the 12 weeks of unpaid leave now provided by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, or the six weeks of paid leave available under California’s state law.

pete-stark.jpgStark said there’s a lot of talk about family values in Washington, and now it’s “time for Congress to… take action that families will actually value. The Family and Medical Leave Act has been a tremendous success, but many workers cannot afford to take unpaid leave.”

Miller said millions have taken unpaid leave under FMLA, but “millions more are put in the impossible position of choosing between paying their bills and dealing with an illness or welcoming a new child to the family. Americans shouldn’t have to make that choice.”

miller.jpg“Family-friendly policies like guaranteed paid leave not only help parents balance work and family, but also improve employers’ bottom lines,” he continued. “When workers have the ability to take advantage of these family-friendly policies, their employers benefit from increased recruitment and retention rates, decreased absenteeism and improved productivity.”

Per Stark’s news release, the bill would:

  • Provide all workers with 12 weeks of paid leave over a 12-month period to care for a new child, provide for an ill family member, treat their own illness, or deal with an exigency caused by the deployment of a member of the military;
  • Provide these benefits through a new trust fund that is financed equally by employers and employees, who will each contribute 0.2% of the employee’s pay;
  • Let self-employed workers opt in by paying both the employer and employee premiums;
  • Progressively tier the benefits so that a low-wage worker (earning less than $30,000) will receive full or near full salary replacement, middle-income workers ($30,000- $60,000) receive 55% wage replacement, and higher earners (over $60,000) receive 40-45%, with the benefit capped at approximately $800 per week;
  • Administer the program through the Department of Labor which will contract with states to administer the program (similar to how the Unemployment Insurance program is run); and
  • Let states and businesses with materially equivalent or better benefits opt out of the program.
  • Josh Richman

    Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

    • People don’t lay off work or come to work based on any kind of silly policy. You must maintain proper parameters and boundaries. Everyone must be intimately aware of these boundaries. You would be surprised at the people who are not. Just as on the ranch, you need solid fences. A sound fence lets the cattle know the territory they can wander and where they cannot. Moreover, just like cattle, some people will always be trying the fence, looking for a weak spot. Do you know what ranchers do with cattle that continually breach the fence? They sell them or eat them.
      We must also guard against the employer who will not allow his people to get time off for important events or is too ‘policy driven.’ Of course, managers will often spout that if they allow someone to go outside the policy they will lose control. Here is a helpful hint. Someone who says that has already lost control. This also reminds me of an old cowboy saying: “A hound dog will always return to a warm home.” That pretty much sums it up.
      Many times in the past, I’ve heard managers proclaim, “This is not a popularity contest.” Well, I hate to disappoint them, but it really is. The employee who just called in sick voted you Least Popular. Like it or not, these are contests you need to win, place, or show. Michael L. Gooch http://www.michaellgooch.com