Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand issued the following statement on the President’s budget, announced today:
“The President’s budget is not just a starting point for discussions with Congress, it is fundamentally a statement of values. With his proposal, the President rightly makes the growth of the middle class a priority and focuses on addressing the challenges working families across the country face. On issues like paid family leave, affordable child care and early childhood education, the President’s budget provides an important first step toward fair economic policies that will strengthen our workforce and economy. I believe we can and must go farther, and will reintroduce the FAMILY Act to ensure that working Americans, no matter where they live, have access to paid leave.
“I also want to applaud the President’s addition of $31 million for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which is responsible for addressing campus sexual assault complaints. The ability to hire and train new staff focused on sexual violence is part of the comprehensive reform that survivors and advocates have urged us to adopt.”
In November, Senator Gillibrand led a coalition of Senators in urging the President to request additional funding for Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights to hire and train staff focused on sexual assault cases. The investment will help provide for adequate investigations and enforcement of Title IX related to campus sexual violence on colleges and universities across the country.
ICYMI: Gillibrand Speaks with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer on FAMILY Act, Answers Caller’s Questions on How Policy Would Impact Businesses
Senator Gillibrand joined WNYC’s Brian Lehrer for a discussion of the FAMILY Act, her bill to extend paid family and medical leave to every American worker. Listen to the full segment here.
Brian Lehrer: Ok. So tell us about your bill, and how it compares to whatever President Obama is now proposing on family and medical leave.
Senator Gillibrand: Well, my bill would be an earned benefit. It’s something that people would pay into over their lifetime, so that it would be there when they desperately need it; when they have a parent who is dying or gravely ill, a family member who is sick, or a new baby. It would be the cost of a cup of coffee a week, so a small amount of money, and it would be part of your earned benefit. So whether you changed jobs, whether you’re working at big business or small business, whether you’re working full-time or part time, it would be there for you as a safety net when those family emergencies do arrive.
Caller: Yes, Good Morning Brian. Thank you. Yea, I have, long before it was even the law, given our employees sick days and a generous vacation policy and a profit sharing policy – but if people want to have children that is totally voluntary. I don’t want to support that at all – unless they want to save for it just like anyone else. That’s something to save for or save your leave for, not something that I should have to pay for.
Lehrer: Ah-ha, so there is the other side of the argument. Senator what do you say to Steve?
Senator Gillibrand: Well, I would ask you do you value your female employees, and if you do, you won’t retain them if you don’t offer paid leave at some point, or some flexibility when they have children. So the real question is, what is the value of women in our companies – and if you don’t value them, you’ll have a male dominated company and I can tell you that studies show, that when women are a part of the workplace outcomes are better, when you have women on corporate boards, higher returns on investment, higher returns on equity. So what I would challenge you is, that your business will do less well, if you don’t retain your female employees
Caller: I’m not challenging the idea of women providing extreme value, I have a bunch of women who work for me. It’s a small company – we’re five people, but that’s not really the issue. The issue is the decision to have children, just like a decision to own a house.
Senator Gillibrand: Your mother made the decision to have you, I think that was probably a good decision, no?
Steve: It may have been a good decision, but that was her decision and she decided to put aside the appropriate resources for it, it’s not her employer’s responsibility to provide the resources for her to do that.
Senator Gillibrand: Well for our lowest wage workers that’s not really an option, because if you’re earning the minimum wage, or a low wage salary – you don’t have enough money to save. If you’re only earning 15,000 dollars or 20,000 dollars a year – every dime you earn is going into housing, and into food, and into caring for your family. So it’s a luxury, and it’s really something for higher paid workers to be able to put money away to accommodate necessary leave. And today, in fact, it is the highest wage workers who have this ability. So you’re again constantly and chronically harming lower paid workers, particularly lower paid women.