Press Release

On Senate Floor, Gillibrand Urges Colleagues To Guarantee Paid Family And Medical Leave For Federal Workers And Their Families

Sep 25, 2019

9.26.19 KEG on Floor re: family leave

**WATCH Senator Gillibrand’s Speech on the Senate Floor HERE**

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today spoke on the Senate floor to urge her colleagues to pass guaranteed paid family and medical leave for two million federal workers. This came as Senate Republicans blocked a motion that would have provided paid family and medical leave for federal workers and their families. Gillibrand, a champion of paid family leave and author of the FAMILY Act, called on her colleagues to reject this Republican motion.

Below are Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as delivered:

Thank you Mr. President, I rise to speak in opposition to the Republican Motion to Instruct on Paid Family and Medical Leave.

Before I move to the issue at hand, I do want to address the very serious allegations against President Trump and the new information we are learning from the memo the White House released today.

It is deeply concerning to learn that President Trump asked Ukrainian President Zelensky to work with the United States to investigate Vice President Biden. Our democracy is at risk and President Trump has betrayed our country.

I support Speaker Pelosi in starting the impeachment inquiry she announced yesterday and the revelations today make these investigations even more necessary.

I now want to talk about an opportunity that we have in the Senate today to serve the nation by guaranteeing paid family and medical leave for two million federal workers and their families through the Schatz motion.

Every other industrialized country in the world has some version of paid leave, which allows workers to take care of their loved ones when a medical emergency arises.

And yet, the vast majority of our workforce here in America lacks access to paid leave. That means far too many of our workers are unpaid to take paid time off if they need to care for a new child, a sick parent, or their spouse.

This sadly includes two million of our federal employees, and I know Mr. President is aware of this, given his own family situation, but we have a chance to fix that right now, and I urge my colleagues to vote yes on the Schatz motion.  

However, Senate Republicans have offered an additional motion that would block this benefit from every other working American.

This is nothing short of an attack on all workers’ access to affordable and accessible paid family leave.

What my Republican colleagues are suggesting is that our workers should work overtime to compensate for family leave.

Their motion would require workers to shift around their hours — and take on more hours — in order to receive the paid time off they need in an emergency situation or when welcoming a new child.

So let me be very clear: This is not a benefit. It’s a cynical plan that would erode our American workers’ abilities to make ends meet and harm their access to real paid leave.

It would hurt those who need this the most; including women, communities of color, and low-wage workers.

Most workers living paycheck to paycheck won’t be able to take extra shifts to earn paid leave. Too many families across the country don’t even have $400 in savings for emergency expenses.

Take Shelby Ramirez Martinez, for example. She found herself in the most untenable situation where her daughter and her father both had simultaneous surgeries scheduled.

Shelby is a mom of two, caregiver to her father, and a full-time student and security officer. She didn’t have access to paid leave, so she was forced to take two weeks off and forgo her pay.

She couldn’t have planned for that by working overtime – and sacrificing time with her daughter – or with a flex savings account.

What Shelby and all Americans need is dedicated and extended time off for medical emergencies and births.

The Republican motion to instruct calls for the employer tax credits that are handouts to large and rich companies like Google, that already provide paid leave and leaves taxpayers footing the bill. 

And they are false incentives for small businesses that still won’t be able to afford the leave.

My bill, the FAMILY Act, would provide 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for all workers. 

It’s the only comprehensive proposal that is accessible and affordable for all working Americans. 

It’s modeled off of very successful state programs, like in California, ensuring that working Americans do not have to choose between their family and their paycheck.

It shouldn’t be so hard. So many workers around the country have new children, sick spouses, elderly parents, and they need access to paid leave.

So today, let’s stand together and reject fake paid leave by voting no on the Ernst motion to instruct. For people like Shelby and her family.

I yield the floor.