Thursday, August 2, 2007

AFSCME 965 Backs Family Leave Insurance

AFSCME Local 965 urges U.S. Senators Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln to support and sign as co-sponsors on the landmark legislation introduced by Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Ted Stevens (R-AK) that would provide up to 8 weeks of paid leave to workers needing time off due to the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a child, spouse or parent with a serious illness or to care for their own serious illness. The Family Leave Insurance Act of 2007 will benefit both businesses and their employees by establishing a Family Leave Insurance Fund, through which employees, employers and the federal government share the cost of providing compensation during times of family crisis.

“No one should have to choose between the job they need and the family they love, and I deeply regret that today many people are forced to make these types of decisions,” said Dodd. “Our nation’s economy, its production and its competitiveness, benefit when workers are able to meet their demands at home and on the job. The Family and Medical Leave Act was a major milestone in our nation’s dialogue that acknowledged that families, workforce production and competitiveness are not mutually exclusive. It was a critically important first step, but the elimination of needed income during times of crisis in family life is something no hard-working American should experience.”

The Work, Family and Equity Index, released by researchers from Harvard and McGill Universities, shows that the United States lags behind 163 other countries that guarantee paid maternal leave and 45 countries that provide paid paternal leave. Additionally, 37 countries already ensure paid leave for the care of an ill child. This legislation would help close that gap, and begin to bring the United States up to par with these nations that have already made great strides towards balancing the competing demands placed on workers by their families and careers.

Costs will be shared by employees, employers, and the federal government. Both employees and employers must pay a small premium for the insurance, equivalent to 0.2 percent of each employee’s earnings. Employers with fewer than 50 employees may opt in to the Fund at a 50% discount, with premiums equivalent to 0.1 percent of earnings and the federal government paying administrative costs that are not covered by the Fund. This financing structure should allow the Insurance Program to pay for itself with little cost to the federal government and taxpayers.

Senator Dodd is the author of the landmark Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which has allowed more than 50 million workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave if they are ill or if they need to care for a sick family member or new child.

AFSCME Local 965 backed state legislation earlier this year to expand the availability of unpaid family leave for parents with new children. It was defeated in a House Committee by opposition from business owners and committee members with business interests who said it would be inconvenient for them to accommodate the parents of newborns by granting unpaid leave from work.

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