State Senate Republicans – joined by conservative Democrats Rodney Tom and Tim Sheldon – are working to repeal Washington’s landmark Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FMLI) Act, passed in 2007 to ensure working moms and dads up to five weeks of partially paid leave to care for a newborn or newly adopted child.
Over half of new mothers in the U.S. have no paid leave at all for childbirth – no paid sick time, no vacation, no disability, no maternity leave – according to the U.S. Census Bureau. FMLI is designed to bridge the gap for families who qualify for unpaid leave under federal law, but can’t afford to take the time off without pay. Originally scheduled to begin in October 2009, current law would provide a benefit of up to $250 a week will to moms and dads taking family leave for up to five weeks, starting in October 2015.
Repealing paid family leave will force more moms and to go back to work well before medical professionals advise – limiting breastfeeding, making it harder to get immunizations, and reducing bonding time. Paid family leave has been shown to reduce infant mortality by 20%. Unpaid family leave doesn’t show the same benefit.
Repealing paid family leave will also increase the odds that more of our state’s working moms and dads will fall into poverty due to the birth of a child, and have to rely on the state for help. Research from Columbia University shows that 25% of all poverty spells in America begin with the birth of a new child. In states with paid family leave benefits, just 10% of new moms went on public assistance, compared to 24% in states without those programs. Women who returned to work after taking paid leave were 40% less likely to receive food stamps. They’re also 54% more likely to report wage increases than women who did not take paid leave.
State senators should be working to strengthen families – not taking on an anti-worker, anti-family agenda that rolls back a common-sense protection for working parents and their newborns.
That’s why the Washington Work and Family Coalition is working to strengthen protections for new moms, dads and all working people, via two new bills: one to make Family and Medical Leave Insurance available to all Washington workers, and another to ensure everyone can earn paid sick days on the job.
Will you send an email to your legislator urging them to show their support for paid family leave and paid sick days, and thank those who already are? You can check to see who is already supporting the bills (FMLI is SB 5292, and Paid Sick Days is HB 1313). Find your legislator here!