DEMOCRATIC LEADER NANCY PELOSI JOINS MASSACHUSETTS ELECTED LEADERS AND ADVOCATES TO CELEBRATE LANDMARK FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACTMarch 25, 2013
Healthy Families Act, Sponsored by Leader Pelosi, Would Establish National Sick Days Standard
Calls for Earned Sick Time in Massachusetts Grow
BOSTON—House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) joined Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass), local elected officials, labor leaders, women’s advocates, and workers who have benefited from the Family and Medical Leave Act at a ceremony celebrating the 20th anniversary of the landmark federal law that guarantees Americans protected time to care for loved ones. Leader Pelosi’s visit to Boston is part of a month-long series of activities in which members of Congress have marked the anniversary through in-district events to discuss strengthening the protections of FMLA at the federal level through legislation like the Healthy Families Act (HFA), introduced in Congress last week.
“The passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act was an historic moment for our country because it enabled millions of Americans to take care of their families without sacrificing their jobs,” said Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is a stalwart champion for children and working families. “While we celebrate past achievements, we cannot grow complacent. We must expand these protections with policies like paid sick leave to catch up to the economic realities that our families and businesses are facing.”
Sonia Darai from Somerville describes her experience with FMLA: “FMLA enabled me to care for my Dad for three weeks after he had major surgery without worrying that I would lose my job. My dad is doing well now, and my whole family credits FMLA as the reason why my Dad is living independently today.”
The celebration of FMLA comes just days after the introduction of the Healthy Families Act in Congress. Sponsored by Leader Pelosi and introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the HFA would establish a national standard by which workers would earn up to seven paid sick days each year. Currently 40 million people in America have no access to paid sick days, forcing them to work sick or risk losing critical income or their jobs.
In Massachusetts, a broad coalition of workers, business owners, labor unions, advocates for women, children and the elderly, faith leaders and health professionals are supporting the 2013 Earned Paid Sick Time Bill, introduced in January by Sen. Dan Wolf and Rep. Kay Kahn. The bill would enable workers to earn one hour of paid sick time for every thirty hours worked, extending protection to nearly one million people in Massachusetts who are currently forced to choose between their health and their paycheck. That includes workers like Terry Brinig from Boston, who has worked as a bus driver for more than 30 years without access to paid sick days and whose son suffers from a chronic and serious intestinal disorder. When Brinig’s son becomes ill, she loses wages and risks her job by taking time from work to care for him in the hospital.
“FMLA has made a big impact on the lives, families, and jobs of millions of Americans, and after 20 years it’s time to look forward to see what more we can do to support families and the economy,” said Deb Fastino, Director of the Massachusetts Paid Leave Coalition, which organized Monday’s event and is supporting the Earned Paid Sick Time Bill in the state legislature. “Here in Massachusetts we need to boost the economy by making sure working people can cover the basics, and that means making sure that getting sick with the flu doesn’t cost someone their paycheck or their job. Earned sick time will strengthen financial security for Massachusetts families.”
Across the country, cities and states have also been adopting earned sick days policies to address short-term health needs not covered by FMLA. Earlier this month, Portland, Oregon became the fourth city in the country to adopt a paid sick days law, and the City Council in Philadelphia voted to pass a similar policy. The City Council in New York City held hearings last week on the paid sick days bill that awaits a vote. In addition to the bill in Massachusetts, statewide bills are moving forward in Washington State, Vermont, and Georgia. Residents of Orange County, Florida will be able to vote for paid sick days in August 2014 thanks to the 50,000 voters who petitioned for the ballot initiative.
These recent wins and active campaigns build on sick time victories in Connecticut, which passed the first statewide law in 2011, Seattle in 2011, Washington, D.C. in 2008, San Francisco in 2006, and a victorious ballot initiative in Long Beach, California that enabled hotel workers to earn sick time in November 2012.
FOR BACKGROUND ON FMLA
February 5 marked the 20-year anniversary of President Clinton’s signing of the historic Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Since its implementation in 1993, FMLA leave has been used more than 100 million times by an estimated 35 million men and women, helping a generation of children get a healthy start in life, a generation of seniors age with greater peace of mind, and many adults care for themselves without having to sacrifice their jobs or health insurance.
FMLA has proven to be enormously popular, with 88 percent of Americans who know about the law having a favorable opinion of it. The vast majority of businesses report the program is somewhat easy or very easy to comply with. FMLA offers 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave, which workers can use to care for a new baby, a sick family member, or to recover from an illness. To be protected by FMLA, a worker must be employed by a company with 50 or more employees and work 1,250 hours per year and be on the job for at least a year.
Yet, these provisions leave out more than two-fifths of the workforce, moving President Obama to mark the anniversary by committing to “redouble our efforts” to make sure working people have access to affordable family leave. In fact, several million workers a year who are eligible for FMLA and need leave don’t take it – mostly because they cannot afford to go without pay. FMLA leaves out workers in smaller companies and many part-timers; it has a narrow definition of family that does not include domestic partners or siblings; and it does not cover routine illnesses.
In addition to advancing sick time policies for short-term illnesses, elected leaders at the state level have pushed for family leave insurance programs to make long-term leaves from work affordable for more families. In 2002 California became the first state to implement a Paid Family Leave (PFL) program, followed in 2009 by New Jersey. The programs have been enormously successful, with 1.4 million claims filed in California and 100,000 filed in New Jersey since their implementation, and high levels of support among business owners and workers. Washington State, Arizona, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, and Pennsylvania have recently considered paid family leave programs.
Emma Stieglitz, emmaS@berlinrosen.com, (646) 200-5307
Jason Stefani, firstname.lastname@example.org, (617) 286-4430
The Massachusetts Paid Leave Coalition
AFL-CIO – Massachusetts, Asian Task Force, AFSCME Council 93, Arise for Social Justice, BLET Local Div. 57, Boston Chinatown NeighborhoodCenter, Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association, Boston Women’s Commission, Boston Teachers Union (AFT), Boston Tenant CoalitionBoyd’s Direct,Byggmeister, CHAPA, Charles Group Consulting, Children’s Law Center, Chinese Progressive, Association, City Life/Vida Urbana, Coalition Against Poverty/Coalition for Social Justice, Community Action Agency of Somerville, Community Legal Aid, Cradle,Dean’s Beans, Disability Law Center, Disability Policy Consortium, Eastern Mass OWL: The Voice for Midlife and Older Women, EMERGE, Equal Exchange, Inc., The Family Center, Flagraphics, Greater Boston Labor Council, Greater Boston Legal Services,Greater Southeastern Mass. Central Labor Council, Grenier Print Shop, Hampshire Franklin Central Labor Council, JALSA – Jewish Alliance for Law & Social Action, Jewish Labor Committee, Jobs With Justice, Johnston Associates, Mass. Affordable Housing Alliance, Mass. Commission on the Status of Women, Mass. COSH, Mass. Interfairth Worker Justice Committee, Mass. Law Reform Institute, Mass. NOW, Mass. Nurses’ Association, Mass. Public Health Association, Mass. School Nurse Organization, Mass. Senior Action, Mass. Women’s Bar Association, MassEquality, Merrimack Valley Central Labor Council, MetroWest Legal Services, MomsRising, MotherWoman, National Assoc. of Social Workers, MA Neighbor to Neighbor, MA Neighborhood Legal Services, New England United for Justice, North Shore Labor Council, One Massachusetts, Our Bodies, Ourselves, PACE, Painters District Council 35, Pioneer Valley Central Labor Council,Public Policy Institute, Plymouth Bristol Central Labor Council, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, SEIU Local 509, SEIU Local 615, SEIU Local 888, SEIU Mass. State Council, Somerville Commission for Women, South Coastal Counties Legal Services,South Mountain Company, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Take Back Your Time/Mass.Council of Churches, Teamsters Local 122, UAW Mass. CAP Council, UAW Local 1596, UAW Local 2320, UAW Local 2322, UFCW Local 791, UFCW Local 1445,UNITE HERE, Joint Board, UU Mass Action Network, William Gallagher Associates