As President Obama noted in his State of the Union address, the U.S. is “the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers.” In fact, only one other nation – Papua New Guinea – stands with us on this particularly embarrassing list.Yet recently you declared that New York lacks the “appetite” to pass paid family leave legislation. According to you, Albany’s appetite for change has been filled by other policies that seek to advance women’s equality, and which deserve to be addressed first.As representatives of national organizations who work every day for policies that promote gender justice, we have to disagree. Pitting paid family leave against an agenda for women’s equality is like saying we can’t build bridges because we need to build roads. In fact, affordable leave is key to economic security for women, for communities and for families. New York should step forward as a leader.
From wage discrimination to paid family leave, policies that advance gender equity work hand in hand. In fact, the lack of paid family leave is a key contributor to women’s lower pay and inequality. The glass ceiling is held in place by thick maternal walls.
Paid leave is also not only a women’s issue. Men want to be good fathers, sons and husbands, but are punished on the job for doing exactly that. Research underlines the importance of paid leave for babies’ development and early learning – something we all have a stake in. The issue also deeply impacts seniors, the chronically ill, and our economy as a whole. Given the disproportionate impact of lack of leave on workers of color, such a policy is also critical for achieving racial justice.
Voters on both sides of the aisle overwhelmingly agree on the need for paid leave and also that government has a responsibility to provide policies that reflect the realities of today’s families. Nationally, 81 percent – 94 percent Democrats, 80 percent of Independents and 65 percent of Republicans – say workplace rules to ensure equal pay, paid time off to care for family members and affordable child care are “good for our nation.”
Doctors have also found that policies allowing family members to be with their loved ones through an illness boost the health of their patients. And economists know that affordable leave keeps women in the workforce and increases their earning potential – without hurting businesses small or large.
Today New York is the only state besides Hawaii that has a Temporary Disability Insurance program that has not been expanded to include paid family leave. The other three – California, New Jersey and Rhode Island – have all established such programs, with benefits for families and for business. Unlike other states working hard to find funds to create a new paid family leave program, New York has an existing structure that can easily be expanded to include care of new children and family members. Creating this program will not bring additional costs to the state, while providing critical support for families.
Paid family leave would ensure that no New Yorker has to choose between the health and economic stability of her family. It would mean that major life moments we all share – the arrival of a new child, or a close relative needing care – do not have to mean debt or bankruptcy.
We need New York to be a pacesetter for the nation. We know that the appetite for paid family leave in New York State is robust. We call on you to join in supporting and pressing for a paid family leave policy that not only advances women, but all of New York while paving the way for change in other states and nationally.
Ellen Bravo, Executive Director, Family Values @ Work
Yanira Cruz, President and CEO, National Hispanic Council on Aging
Margot Dorfman, President US Women’s Chamber of Commerce
Eve Ensler, Playwright and Activist
Olivia Golden, President, Center on Law and Social Policy (CLASP)
Sarita Gupta, Executive Director, Jobs with Justice
Saru Jayaraman, Co-Director, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United
Carol Joyner, Director, Labor Project for Working Families
Linda Meric, Executive Director, 9to5
Debra Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families
Kristen Rowe-Finkbeiner, Co-Founder and Executive Director/CEO, MomsRising
Elizabeth H. Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer, AFL-CIO
Eleanor Smeal, President, Feminist Majority
Neera Tanden, President, Center for American Progress
Jessica Valenti, Author
Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers
Teresa Younger, President and CEO, Ms. Foundation for Women