Press Release

To Honor 25th Anniversary Of Family And Medical Leave Act, Gillibrand Speaks On Senate Floor And Urges Colleagues To Pass The FAMILY Act

Feb 7, 2018

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

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand spoke on the Senate floor today and called on Congress to pass the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act. The United States is the only industrialized country in the world that does not guarantee access to some form of paid leave, forcing millions of American workers to choose between earning a paycheck and leaving their job to take care of their family. Gillibrand’s FAMILY Act would create a paid family and medical leave program for all workers, which would provide up to 66 percent of wage-replacement for 12 weeks in the event of a serious personal or family medical emergency. The paid family leave proposal announced by Senate Republicans does not apply to all workers, and would force workers to borrow from their Social Security to take paid time off. Gillibrand urged Congress to act now to pass the FAMILY Act and establish a national paid leave program for every working American.

Below are Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as delivered:

Mr. President, we just marked the 25th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act, known to most as FMLA.

When FMLA passed 25 years ago, it was an incredible step forward for millions of working families.

They finally had the legal right to step away from their jobs to take care of their families, without the risk of being fired.

But we now know that the law has just not kept up with the times.

FMLA doesn’t apply to 40 percent of the workforce.

And it doesn’t guarantee any pay during the time that worker is away.

In fact, 25 years after FMLA was signed into law, we are still the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t guarantee access to some form of paid leave.

That means that workers all over the country are losing wages and retirement savings when they take time off.

The economy is losing tens of millions of dollars.

We have to change this because FMLA is not good enough anymore.

Mr. President, we need an actual, national paid leave program.

And I am pleased to see that paid leave now has clearly become a bipartisan issue.

Both parties agree that paid leave is something that our country desperately needs and urgently wants to have.

Earlier today, a group of Republican colleagues announced a proposal that they claim would solve this problem.

But it’s clear that their proposal will not help the vast majority of working Americans.

In fact, it would not create a real paid leave program that covers all workers.

And not only that, this plan will actually rob the Social Security trust fund.

This would not strengthen Social Security – it would weaken Social Security.

No worker should have to borrow against their own Social Security benefits, which are already too low, to get paid family leave when they need it to take care of a new baby, a sick family member, a dying parent, or themselves.

And let’s not forget, Social Security already pays women less than men, so this proposal would make that problem even worse.

So if you are watching this debate right now, and you are wondering whether Congress is finally going to pass a paid leave law that actually helps working Americans, don’t be fooled by this Republican proposal.

If your son is diagnosed with cancer, and you need time to bring him to his chemotherapy appointments, their plan will do nothing for you.

If your elderly mother has dementia, and you need time to be by her side, this plan will do nothing for you.

If your husband has a heart attack, and he needs you there while he recovers, this plan does nothing for you.

Mr. President, right now, millions of American workers are stuck choosing between earning a paycheck, and leaving their job to take care of a loved one when some medical emergency happens.

And if this bill passes, that would not change.

Listen to what a woman named Shelby went through because she didn’t have paid leave.

Shelby is a mother and a grandmother, and he takes care of her parent. She’s a security officer, committed to keeping her community safe.

We all know that we can never predict when medical emergencies happen, and all of the sudden, Shelby’s youngest daughter and parent needed medical attention at the same time.

Shelby had to leave work because her family needed her.

But all she had was FMLA, unpaid leave, which counted as an employment disciplinary action from where she worked.

As Shelby put it, taking unpaid leave was an enormous financial burden for her.

She couldn’t keep up with her rent or her utility costs, and it took her months to catch up on just paying her bills.

She was able to keep her job, but she suffered far more than she should have had, with an enormous amount of added stress on top of her family’s medical issues, because she didn’t have paid leave.

And this Republican proposal would not help her.

We have to fix this.

Even President Trump agrees. He said in his State of the Union Address last week.

My response is this: Actions speak louder than words.

Our country needs a real paid leave plan.

If President Trump and Congress really are serious about creating a national paid leave program, then I urge them to support my paid leave bill, which would actually work. It would cover all workers, not just new moms. It’s called the FAMILY Act.

The FAMILY Act would finally guarantee paid family and medical leave to every working American.

The FAMILY Act is affordable, it’s an accessible, earned benefit that you and your employer would contribute into together. It would stay with you for your entire career, no matter where you worked.

It’s universal and it’s comprehensive.

And it’s for women and for men. It’s for young and the elderly.

It’s for workers in big companies or small companies, or even if they’re self-employed.

And it would only cost about the cost of a cup of coffee a week.

This is the kind of paid leave program that our country needs and anything less is just not enough.

Mr. President, five states around the country have already stood up for what’s right, and given their workers access to paid leave.

These states, including my home state of New York, are doing a much better job than Congress, of meeting the needs of their people on this issue.

California, for example, has had their paid leave program for more than a decade.

I know some of my colleagues are worried about whether paid leave is good for business, so I hope they will listen to these numbers:

In a survey, 90 percent of business owners in California said that paid leave had a positive or, at worst, no negative effect on their profits, or their productivity, and on their retention.

99 percent of them said it boosted morale.

Paid leave is good for business, and it’s good for working families. 

So we have to pass it, and I know there is bipartisan support to do it.

Let’s start rewarding work again, and give people the opportunity to earn a better life for their families.

And let’s finally give Americans access to paid leave. 

I urge my colleagues to join me in this fight, and pass the FAMILY Act.