Despite all of the attention paid to our differences this election year, the majority of American voters are united on some key issues because of shared experiences. They face fierce challenges when it comes to managing health and financial security, and they share the near-universal belief that Congress and the president should consider policies that will help.
These are the findings of a new poll released by the National Partnership for Women & Families -- and they couldn't come at a better time, just as lawmakers new and old assess their priorities for the coming year.
According to the poll results, 86 percent of voters nationwide think it is important for Congress and the president to consider new laws such as paid sick days and paid family and medical leave insurance to promote families' economic security. Nearly two-thirds say it is "very important." This strong support extends across demographic and party lines.
That isn't surprising considering that nearly three-quarters of the 2012 voters surveyed said they often struggle to meet work, family and personal responsibilities; and 72 percent said they would be likely to face financial hardship if they or a family member had a serious illness or a new child arrived. Across the board, workers and their families are feeling the impact of workplaces that are badly out of sync with their lives.
That's because more than 40 percent of the private sector workforce in the United States cannot earn a single paid sick day. Just 11 percent have paid family leave through their employers. And fewer than 40 percent have employer-provided paid medical leave through short-term disability insurance policies. As a result, many are forced every day to make impossible choices between the well-being of their families and their financial security.
America's workers and their families have had enough of our nation's outdated workplace policies -- and they want action from lawmakers. Notably, the very voter groups garnering attention for their impact on the election this year feel strongest about the need for Congress and the president to act: 79 percent of Latinos, 77 percent of African Americans and 69 percent of women considered it "very important."
So, as the dust from the election settles, lawmakers should be listening to the voters and constituents they have been elected to serve. That means prioritizing real solutions to the real challenges facing real people in this country.
Legislation that would guarantee workers the right to earn paid sick days, the Healthy Families Act, has been introduced in the last two Congresses. The new Congress should pass it right away. Lawmakers are also expected to work this year on a national paid family and medical leave insurance program that would offer a much-needed update to the Family and Medical Leave Act passed nearly 20 years ago. It should be a high priority as well.
These modest, reasonable proposals would go a long way toward protecting the health and economic stability of our families while also strengthening our economy. America's workers and families need and deserve them. It's time for lawmakers to act.
For topline poll results, go to www.NationalPartnership.org/ElectionPoll.