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From the desk of ... Debra L. Ness

A Watershed Moment: Sheryl Sandberg Endorses the FAMILY Act

August 9, 2017 | Work and Family > Paid Leave

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post.

There are moments in every social change movement when what’s possible becomes probable, and what’s probable becomes inevitable. Sheryl Sandberg’s endorsement of the Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act just provided one of those moments.

The Facebook COO and Lean In movement leader said on Bloomberg TV this afternoon: “Let’s talk about family and medical leave. There’s a really good bill out there. It’s the FAMILY Act. Senator Gillibrand and Congresswoman DeLauro [are the lead sponsors]. It’s a good bill. It offers 12 weeks. It covers men and women. It offers substantial wage reimbursement and replacement … That’s the kind of public policy we need. There’s some progress at the state level. Washington state last month became the fifth state to offer [a] really good paid leave policy and that’s good. But … we need strong national policy.”

With those remarks, one of our country’s most influential business leaders signaled her commitment not just to any paid family and medical leave program, but to a comprehensive, sustainable national paid leave insurance program that would allow all working people to take partially paid time away from their jobs to address serious personal or family medical needs. Lean In’s mission is to empower women to achieve their ambitions and Sandberg knows women cannot do that, nor can businesses prosper or our economy thrive, without a strong, meaningful paid leave program that covers all workers in this country.

Paid family and medical leave is a cornerstone of the movement to make America’s workplaces more family friendly – and family friendly workplaces boost workers, families, communities, employers, the public health and our economy. That’s why eight in 10 voters say it is important for Congress and the president to consider a paid family and medical leave law. It’s why support for paid family and medical leave is growing fast among state and local lawmakers. And it’s why more and more business leaders are speaking out for a public policy that addresses the nation’s paid family and medical leave crisis. In fact, Sandberg joins business leaders like Google/YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki, SAP’s Jenny Dearborn and Morgan Stanley’s Tom Nides; high-profile companies like Adobe, Care.com, EILEEN FISHER, Levi Strauss, Patagonia, Spotify and Uncommon Goods; and numerous small businesses in endorsing the FAMILY Act as the best way to ensure all workers have access to paid family and medical leave.

This isn’t a risky or untested proposition. We have clear evidence that paid leave programs work well for businesses as well as for families. California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Washington state and the District of Columbia all have, or will soon have, paid family and medical leave programs in place. California was the pioneer; its paid family and medical leave program, which was expanded last year, is more than a decade old and is an unmitigated success. New Jersey’s program, too, has worked so well that it may well be expanded soon.

The program Washington state just adopted is groundbreaking in many ways, including because businesses helped develop it and because it’s the country’s first paid family and medical leave program created from scratch, without building on an existing temporary disability insurance (TDI) program. That’s hugely meaningful because most states don’t have TDI programs to build on. The new Washington state program can pave the way for many other states to adopt similar paid leave programs.

But, as exciting as it is, progress in the states will be uneven, and the country simply cannot afford to wait. That’s why visionary leaders like Sheryl Sandberg are pushing for the FAMILY Act – not sham policies like President Trump’s paid leave proposal or the inadequate tax credits some in Congress are pushing. Let’s be clear: Lawmakers who can read the writing on the wall and know the country is ready for paid family and medical leave should also know that we won’t settle for a program that isn’t affordable, inclusive, substantial, comprehensive and secure – and only the FAMILY Act checks all those boxes.

The nation just celebrated the 24th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides unpaid family and medical leave to about three in five workers in this country. Sandberg’s support gives a major boost to the FAMILY Act, the next step in making America family friendly. With her endorsement, momentum for paid family and medical leave growing, and unprecedented progress in the states and the private sector, this is indeed a watershed moment. Winning paid family and medical leave may finally be inevitable – but how fast we get there remains an open question. The answer lies in how determined, how vocal and how active women and men all across this country are in demanding change. Learn how you can help here.


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