National Partnership for Women & Families

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From the desk of ... Debra L. Ness

A Strong Start to 2014 for Working Families

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post.

2013 was a year of great progress for America's working families. Laws guaranteeing people the right to earn paid sick days were passed in Portland, Oregon, New York City and Jersey City, New Jersey. Rhode Island passed the nation's third paid family leave program. We saw new attention and support for work and family policies around the Family and Medical Leave Act's 20th anniversary, which led to a new federal paid family and medical leave proposal, the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act. And much more.

Building off of the victories of last year, 2014 is off to an equally strong and promising start. In fact, America is already more family-friendly. That's because Rhode Island's family leave insurance program took effect January 1, ensuring the state's residents can take up to four weeks away from their jobs with some pay to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a new child. And in Portland, Oregon, more than 120,000 workers now have the right to earn job-protected sick days as the city's sick days law also took effect at the start of the year.

And the minimum wage increased in 13 states and four cities on January 1. This is great news for working families and the country: "Ensuring women and all workers are paid fairly and well enough to keep food on the table and their families out of poverty is essential to the well-being of our nation," as noted in our press release.

But that's not all. There is even more progress toward a family-friendly America on the horizon as more laws take effect and state and local campaigns continue. In the coming weeks, we anticipate the expansion of D.C.'s paid sick days law to cover tipped restaurant and bar workers. Later this month, Jersey City's sick days law will take effect. And in April, more than one million New York City residents will gain the right to earn sick days as that city's law takes effect. These advances will make a tremendous difference for families and communities.

They also help pave the way for the national family-friendly workplace standards the country needs, such as the Healthy Families Act and the FAMILY Act. The Healthy Families Act would establish a national paid sick days standard, and the FAMILY Act would establish a national paid family and medical leave insurance program modeled on programs already in place in California, New Jersey and, as of January 1, Rhode Island. Both laws are urgently needed.

As Congress prepares for the New Year, it should recognize the momentum around and demand for family-friendly workplace policies we saw throughout 2013 and prioritize passage of the Healthy Families Act and the FAMILY Act. When it does, working people across the country will no longer have to worry that one case of the flu, the birth of child or a serious illness will mean the loss of critical income or their families' economic security. And America's residents, businesses and economy will be better off.


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