Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03) today stood with workers, business leaders, and advocates to announce the reintroduction of the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, or FAMILY Act, legislation that would create a universal, gender-neutral, national paid family and medical leave program. The FAMILY Act is the gold standard for paid leave legislation in Congress and would ensure that workers can take up to 12 weeks of paid leave for a pregnancy, the birth or adoption of a child, recovery from a serious illness, or to care for a seriously ill family member.
The United States is the only industrialized country that doesn’t guarantee its workers some form of paid leave. Recent studies have shown that the lack of access to paid family and medical leave costs nearly $21 billion that otherwise could be spent on housing, child care, food, education, or other day-to-day items. The FAMILY Act would create a self-sustaining family insurance program for all workers – young and elderly, single and married, and men and women, regardless of the size of their employer. Modeled after successful state programs, and costing only as much as a cup of coffee per week, the fund would provide up to 66 percent wage replacement for up to 12 weeks in the event of a serious personal or family medical emergency.
“When Americans don’t have access to paid leave, it hurts low-income workers, it worsens the wealth gap for women, it exacerbates racial inequality, and it prevents small businesses from being able to compete with the biggest corporations. This is a national problem that affects all of us, and that’s why it needs a national solution,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Here’s what I believe: If the C-suite gets paid leave, then the factory floor should have it too – and the FAMILY Act would make that happen. I’m incredibly proud to reintroduce this bill to create a national paid leave program for every working American, and I’m going to keep fighting as hard as I can to pass it into law.”
“We need the FAMILY Act to help deal with the biggest economic challenge of our time—that too many Americans are working in jobs that do not pay them enough to live on,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “Losing several weeks’ worth of wages in order to care for an ill loved one or the birth of a child—events which many of us would need to take time off for—is simply not an option. In fact, it would push many families over the financial edge. That is why we need to act now; the time for national paid family and medical leave is long overdue. Our new Democratic majority in the House is poised to take action and keep fighting until no American worker has to choose between sacrificing a paycheck and caring for their family during the toughest times.”
“Maya Angelou once said, ‘I’ve learned that making a living is not the same thing as making a life.’ As we make our lives, there are times when we must nurture new babies, care for sick family, and nurse elderly parents. During these periods of time, workers need basic pay so that they can meet their responsibilities without fear of losing their jobs, their housing, or their ability to buy food. Every other industrialized country recognizes the societal value of paid family and medical leave. Paid leave is more than simply a humane policy. Paid leave grows our economy, improves employee retention and morale, and promotes developmental well-being from young children to older adults. Access to paid family and medical leave should be a fundamental right for all workers, not a luxury of the privileged. I am proud to join with Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in introducing the FAMILY Act to ensure workers can take up to 12 weeks of paid leave due to pregnancy, arrival of a child, illness recovery, or family infirmity,” said Congressman Danny K. Davis.
“American workers today are strained with the challenge to balance work, life, and family obligations. We should make that easier. A national paid leave program would bolster the economic security of individuals and families, improve health outcomes, and contribute to a stronger workforce. No one should be forced to choose between caring for a loved one or paying bills. I’m proud to be an original cosponsor of this pro-worker and pro-family legislation,” said Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA).
“Far too many Americans today are faced with the irreconcilable choice? earning a paycheck or taking care of a loved one. Respected economists agree that enacting sensible paid medical and family leave policies will increase the labor force participation rate and grow the economy. The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act) guarantees workers, regardless of where they work or who they work for, the right to take leave without worrying about loss of income or their jobs. The FAMILY Act would also reduce by 75 percent the share of families by who fall into poverty after taking unpaid leave under the FMLA,” said Chairman Bobby Scott (VA-03), Committee on Education and Labor.
“Ensuring workers have access to paid leave is not just about doing the right thing for families when their backs are against the wall, it’s also about doing what is best for our economy. American workers lose more than $20 billion a year because the country lacks a comprehensive approach to providing paid family and medical leave. The FAMILY Act would provide a much-needed boost to our economy by ensuring workers can care for their loved ones — whether it is tending to a sick child, an ailing loved one, a personal illness — without putting their economic well-being at risk,” said Neera Tanden, Chief Executive Officer and President, Center for American Progress.
“It’s beyond exciting to see so much energy among voters, lawmakers and a broad, diverse coalition of organizations and businesses behind passing a national paid family and medical leave law this year. Over the past year, we’ve seen Democrats and Republicans converge around the idea that paid leave boosts families, businesses and the economy, and that paid leave is essential to gender equity at home and at work. The FAMILY Act is a common-sense, tested and sustainable solution to addressing the needs of more than 100 million workers who currently have no paid family leave. It will especially benefit women of color and people in lower-wage jobs, who are often faced with the greatest caregiving challenges and are least likely to have access to paid leave. This compounds the disparities and discrimination women of color face and further compromises their economic security and well-being,” said Vicki Shabo, Vice President for Workplace Policies and Strategies, National Partnership for Women & Families.
“Paid family leave is a no brainer for Black women and their families when you consider, for example: three out of out four Black women mothers are the primary source of income in their family units and nearly 30 percent of Black family caregivers are young family members between the ages of 18 and 34 and who earn less than $30,000 annually,” said Jennifer Tucker, Senior Policy Advisor, Black Women’s Roundtable.
“The FAMILY Act is a critical work support for all and particularly game-changing for low-income workers and workers of color. The vast majority of low-wage workers—93 percent—have no access to paid family leave. When a baby is born or illness strikes, hard-working families are forced to make impossible choices between their economic security and the needs of their loved ones. For workers without paid leave, taking time off can lead to lost wages or even lost jobs, which is harmful to any family’s economic security and devastating to those earning low wages,” said Olivia Golden, Executive Director, The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).
“My company is one of the few small businesses with the resources to provide comprehensive paid family and medical leave, and it has strengthened our bottom line. When my business was smaller with only 20 employees, as much as we wanted to, we couldn’t afford to offer the paid leave we have today. Access to paid leave shouldn’t depend on where you live or where you work. Paid family and medical leave is good for Main Street businesses, good for workers and families, and good for our economy,” said Sabrina Parsons, Chief Executive Officer, Palo Alto Software and Main Street Alliance Member.
“We knew we would see this day when a smart and sustainable family leave bill would have a real chance of passage, fueled by wins in the states and the individuals who became activists after living the consequences of zero weeks of paid leave,” said Carol Joyner, Director of the Labor Project, Family Values @ Work.
“It [was painful] that I could not be there for my mom who held my hand as a child who could not hear. I had to work to make money to pay the bills. We should not have to worry about anything but focusing on our loved one’s recovery,” said Fidel Onofre Hernandez, Family Values @ Work Member, Racine, Wisconsin.
“When my 4-year-old daughter had a stroke, I lost my job and my home. This was my baby and I wasn’t going to leave her side, but I also needed my job,” said Staci Lowry, Family Values @ Work Member, Detroit, Michigan.
Specifically, the FAMILY Act would do the following:
- Provide up to 12 weeks of partial wages to working people who need to take time away from their jobs to address a serious personal or family health issue, to care for a newborn or newly adopted child, or for circumstances arising from a loved one’s military deployment or serious injury;
- Be self-funded through payroll contributions from employers and employees of just two-tenths of 1% each (two cents per $10 in wages), or about $4 a week total, split between employers and employees;
- Guarantee portable coverage so that workers who have multiple jobs, change jobs, or are self-employed are provided with the same security as traditional employees; and
- Provide 66% wage replacement, capped at $4,000 a month.
This legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Ed Markey (D-MA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Angus King (I-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Tina Smith (D-MN).
The following organizations have endorsed the FAMILY Act: 1,000 Days, 9to5, National Association of Working Women, 9to5 California, 9to5 Colorado, 9to5 Georgia, 9to5 Wisconsin, A Better Balance, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of University Women (AAUW), American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, American Federation of Teachers, American Pediatric Association, American Psychological Association, American Public Health Association, American Sustainable Business Council, Black Women’s Roundtable, Caring Across Generations, Caring Economy Campaign, Center for American Progress, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Common Sense Kids, Communication Workers of America, Faith in Public Life, Family Equality Council, Family Values @ Work, Human Rights Campaign, Interfaith Worker Justice, Jewish Women International, Labor Project for Working Families, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Main Street Alliance, Make It Work, Mi Familia Vota, MomsRising, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), National Council of Jewish Women, National Hispanic Council on Aging, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Women’s Law Center, NETWORK, PICO National Network, PL+US, Service Employees International Union, Small Business Majority, United States Breastfeeding Committee, Young Invincibles, YWCA USA, and ZERO TO THREE.