February 6, 2013 — Recent opinion pieces in American Prospect, The Atlantic and The Nation commented on the achievements and shortcomings of the Family Medical Leave Act 20 years after it was signed into law. Summaries appear below.
~ Sharon Lerner, American Prospect: Lerner, an author who has researched parental leave, writes that while the 20th anniversary of FMLA should be celebrated, policymakers also must address shortfalls that leave "almost half the workforce uncovered" and force "the majority of working mothers in the U.S. [to be] back at work before three months is up." Lerner cites Department of Labor statistics that show "nearly half of workers" who didn't take leave they were entitled to under FMLA "couldn't afford to take the time without pay." She urges U.S. lawmakers to "catch up" to other countries and pass "a federal law that provides mothers -- and fathers, and all who need it -- with pay to go along with their time off from work" (Lerner, American Prospect, 2/5).
~ Sarah Jane Glynn, The Atlantic: "The FMLA remains to this day the only piece of federal legislation specifically focused on helping workers manage their dual responsibilities in the workplace and in the home," writes Glynn, a policy analyst at the Center for American Progress. While "[n]o one should underestimate the positive impact that the Family and Medical Leave Act has had on workers' lives," it "is not perfect, nor does it address all the needs workers have," Glynn continues. For example, she points out that the U.S. remains the "only industrialized nation that does not offer paid maternity leave" and "the only advanced economy that does not guarantee the right to earned sick days." To help address the issue, the Center for American Progress "has proposed Social Security Cares, a national paid family and medical leave insurance program that would cover the same life events that are covered under the FMLA and offer partial wage replacement that was funded through a small (less than one-half of one-percent) increase in the payroll tax," Glynn states (Glynn, The Atlantic, 2/5).
~ Bryce Covert, The Nation: Covert, a contributor to The Nation, writes that for "all the good [FMLA has] done," the lack of universal paid leave in the U.S. is "threatening our economic edge." The lack of paid leave and other family-friendly policies "accounts for nearly 30 percent in the deterioration of women's participation rates" in the workforce, she writes. Noting that "women's entrance into the workforce since the 1970s accounts for a quarter of our GDP," Covert questions "how much higher that [figure] would be if they'd kept making gains." She concludes, "[I]t's clear that we've allowed ourselves to get left behind since [the passage of FMLA]. Twenty years later, it's time to update our policies so that they look like we live in the 21st century" (Covert, The Nation, 2/5).
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