December 4, 2012 — Although it is "widely known that the U.S. is way out of step with the rest of the world in not having paid maternity leave," there is "reason to be optimistic" that legislation guaranteeing paid family leave will be enacted during President Obama's second term, writes Sharon Lerner -- an author and senior fellow at Demos -- in The Atlantic.
Voters across the political spectrum want Obama and Congress to act on legislation to better support working families, such as paid family leave and paid sick days, according to an exit poll released on Tuesday by the National Partnership for Women & Families. The poll, conducted by Celinda Lake, found that 73% of Republicans said lawmakers should act on such legislation, as did 87% of independents and 96% of Democrats.
"No doubt this bi-partisan enthusiasm stems from the fact that most people realize that, without paid time off, they could well be financially ruined by having an illness in the family or new baby to care for," Lerner writes. The poll found that 72% of voters -- including 78% of independent and Republican-leaning women -- said they would face financial troubles in such a situation.
To facilitate the passage of a comprehensive paid family and medical leave bill, the National Partnership is working with Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) to draft legislation that builds on principles of the Social Security program to provide paid time off to workers caring for sick family members or a new baby, Lerner writes.
In addition, the Washington state Legislature will soon consider a bill that expands parental leave, while a coalition of public health, labor and women's groups in New York have launched a campaign to promote family and medical leave insurance. If successful, New York "may soon join New Jersey and California in providing paid time off to workers who have new babies or sick relatives -- and hopefully leading the entire country out of the family-policy dark ages," Lerner concludes (Lerner, The Atlantic, 12/3).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership