Businesses support Family Leave Insurance in Wisconsin

Senate Hearing on SB 385—WI Family Leave Insurance
Reflections from Senate Labor and Government Reform public hearing on January 26, 2016 by 9to5 member and Keep Families First partner, Irene Strohbeen.

Like most people, I have never traveled to Madison to testify at a hearing before.  But I have been a supporter of paid family leave since I found out that it didn’t exist when I was pregnant with my first son.  So I support WI Family Leave Insurance (WIFI) personally, and through the Keeping Families First coalition as the representative of Mid-Day Women’s Alliance, a business women’s organization in Appleton, WI.  When I heard about the Senate hearing, I blocked off my day so that I could be there to testify in support of the bill.

The hearing went well.  I wrote out my statement so that I wouldn’t be nervous and so that I wouldn’t forget key points that I wanted to make. Other speakers talked about the hardships that unpaid leave present to working class families, and the tough decisions that workers make every day between taking care of loved ones versus bringing home the paycheck to take care of the family finances.  I took a different approach, talking about the benefits to businesses in reducing employee turnover and improving employee morale and engagement. Data from California’s experience of 11 years of paid family leave support these benefits.  Together, I think all the testimonies worked well to provide a balanced perspective on the value of SB 385:  good for families and good for business.

The comments were actually quite lop-sided:  no one spoke in opposition to the bill even though we know the opposition exists.  We all left the hearing feeling very excited about the impact of all the personal stories and statements in support of the bill. I hope we caused the Senators on the committee to at least pause and consider the value to our state’s families and economy as they decide whether to move it forward.

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