Huff Post: President Obama’s Announcement a Historic Win for Working Families

Linda Meric
National Executive Director

Reposted from Huffington Post

9to5 and our members applaud President Obama’s announcement that he will aggressively address the lack of paid sick days and family leave for millions of working families.

In an historic announcement, made through the unique channel of LinkedIn, via his senior advisor on working families Valerie Jarret, Obama said access to these kinds of policies is a “worker’s right, not a privilege.”

President Obama will call on Congress to require companies to allow workers to earn up to seven days of paid sick leave a year, Jarret said Wednesday. Obama will also take executive action to give at least six weeks of paid leave to federal employees after the birth or adoption of a child. He also wants Congress to spend $2.2 billion to help states and cities develop paid family and medical leave insurance programs of their own.

Paid leave programs are an essential need for working families. 9to5 member Nancy Yarbrough took a huge loss in income when she had to take unpaid time to care for her mother after two heart attacks.

“Who could or would want to choose spending the last minutes with the one who brought you into the world, nurtured, and cared for you, or be able to pay your bills? No one should have to make that choice,” she said in letter sent to President Obama asking for federal action.

The President’s announcement comes after a year of state victories and midterm election results favoring these kinds of policies. Currently, three states and 15 cities have passed paid sick days laws, and three states have paid family and medical leave programs.

Last summer, 9to5 members and working families from across the country traveled to the White House for the first White House Summit on Working Families.

Shannon Derby, a school teacher from Wisconsin, was part of 9to5’s delegation at the summit. She knows firsthand how difficult it is to take unpaid time to care for the birth of a newborn baby. She was grateful for FMLA that allowed her to take the time she needed without losing her job, but her family suffered a financial loss while she was out from work.

These policies are not only good for families, but they are also good for business. Business owners like Lisa Goodbee in Colorado wrote to the President as well, “I’ve had employees with cancer and ailing parents and children; they have never had to choose between their careers and their health.”

Working women and families nationwide need access to paid family and medical leave insurance — a reflection of the realities faced by today’s workers, families and the economy. Paid leave would benefit all workers, but especially working women because women make up more than half of the workforce and represent nearly 75 percent of family or informal caregivers.

The benefits of paid leave are vast, including lower unemployment rates and greater job security, financial independence, economic growth and savings to businesses by reducing worker replacement costs. The President’s announcement is an important step toward making those benefits a reality.

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