Family Values @ Work

Celebrate the 21st Anniversary of the FMLA by Working for Paid Leave in NY State

February 4, 2014

In honor of the 21st anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act, we’ve asked activists around the country to reflect on what FMLA means in their states, how states are taking action to improve upon this seminal law and where we still need to do work. Visit the FMLA 21st Birthday Blog Carnival for blogs from around the country.

By Donna Dolan

The 21st anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act is a great time for elected officials to take President Obama’s advice and leave “Mad Men” attitudes and policies behind. As the President pointed out in his recent State of the Union address, we need to adopt programs that allow workers to hold jobs and care for their families.

In December, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa De Lauro introduced the FAMILY Act into Congress. This bill will modernize the 1993 FMLA and provide up to 12 weeks of paid family leave for the care for a new child or sick family member. The program creates a social insurance fund, financed through small employee and employer payroll deductions costing approximately $1.50 a week per person.

The best way for New Yorkers to help build support for Senator Gillibrand’s federal bill, is to make New York the next and fourth state to pass Paid Family Leave Insurance.

Just ask Melissa why we need such a program in New York State. Melissa was a project manager for a digital marketing agency in New York City when she and her husband had their first child a few years ago. Her husband lost his job seven weeks before her due date. Luckily, after her son was born via caesarean delivery, Melissa was able to draw partial pay for nine weeks through New York State’s temporary disability insurance program. Ours is one of only five states, along with Puerto Rico, to have such a TDI fund in place.

As grateful as Melissa was that the temporary disability insurance allowed them to pay rent, buy groceries and keep the lights on, the last three weeks of her 12-week leave were unpaid. Lack of income is especially hard when your partner is still looking for work.

Across the state, people like Melissa are getting together to tell Governor Andrew Cuomo to support Paid Family Leave Insurance so that all New Yorkers can be successful as breadwinners and as caregivers for their families.

Donna Dolan is Executive Director of the New York State Paid Leave Coalition



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