Dear America, please tell Congress we want paid leave

Dear American parents, sons, and daughters,

I recently learned some truly disturbing facts about paid leave in our country while working on an eye-opening documentary called The Milky Way. Did you know that the U.S. is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t have mandated paid leave? It is one of only four of 173 nations surveyed that doesn’t have it. The other three are Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, and Liberia (or Lesotho, depending on the source.) It’s true. Look here, here, or here. Oh, and here. From the survey:

Out of 173 countries studied, 169 countries offer guaranteed leave with income to women in connection with childbirth; 98 of these countries offer 14 or more weeks paid leave. Although in a number of countries many women work in the informal sector, where these government guarantees do not always apply, the fact remains that the U.S. guarantees no paid leave for mothers in any segment of the work force, leaving it in the company of only 3 other nations: Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland.

You may know that back in 1993, Congress passed the FMLA, which provided 12 weeks of unpaid leave to a small number of employees that met a list of eligibility requirements. Most of you probably didn’t even get that. Or couldn’t take it because of that pesky need for money to buy food and such.

How many of you got paid leave after your kids were born? How many of you were paid when you had to take time off to nurse a sick parent to heath?

I’m guessing too few. If any.

And here’s why I’m writing. The long-overdue next step is here. Congress has in their possession, right now, a bill that provides 12 weeks of paid leave that would cost us about the same as disability or unemployment insurance. Two tenths of one percent, that’s all. Which ends up being about $1.50 a week for the average worker. (Some people have called it the “price of a cup of coffee” but they either haven’t bought coffee in ten years or don’t even drink it.) And there isn’t a long list of eligibility requirents. It is called the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, or FAMILY act. According to this fact sheet provided by National Partnership for Women and Families, The FAMILY Act would:

– Provide workers with up to 12 weeks of partial income when they take time for their own serious health condition, including pregnancy and childbirth recovery; the serious health condition of a child, parent, spouse or domestic partner; the birth or adoption of a child; and/or for particular military caregiving and leave purposes.

– Enable workers to earn 66 percent of their monthly wages, up to a capped amount.

– Cover workers in all companies, no matter their size. Younger, part-time, lower-wage and contingent workers would be eligible for benefits.

– Be funded by small employee and employer payroll contributions of two-tenths of one percent each (two cents per $10 in wages), or about $1.50 per week for a typical worker.

– Be administered through a new Office of Paid Family and Medical Leave within the Social Security Administration. Payroll contributions would cover both insurance benefits and administrative costs.

Sign this MoveOn.org petition to tell Congress we want paid leave!

In January, the wonderful National Partnership for Women and Families sent the members of Congress this letter on behalf of 433 organizations and millions of Americans urging them to support the bill. But they were way too nice; they have to be.

I don’t.

I’m in the Navy, and I curse like a sailor when I’m not around my kids, and I’ll bet a lot of y’all do too, so here it comes.

What the f*ck is going on in our country that such a crucial measure to protect our families is barely a blip on our government’s radar? The bill is already buried in committees in both houses. According to the govtrack.us site and some legislators out there, the bill is a nice idea but will never pass. To which I say:

Bullsh*t. Have you actually talked to any of your constituents? Because I’ll bet that mom who just had her baby and is already trying to figure out pumping schedules would sure like to know that she could actually spend some time bonding with her baby first. And that guy who has to take off work because his mother has fallen ill would feel a lot better knowing that he’d have a paycheck coming in for a couple months while he helps her get better.

Go here to sign the National Partnership for Women and Families petition. Please.

I have been talking to people about this everywhere I go, and so far not a single person knows that there is a bill in Congress that could give us 12 weeks paid leave. Not. A. Single. Person. Once I told them about it, especially that it would be mandated, low-cost, and doesn’t add to the federal budget, every one of them enthusiastically agreed that this bill should pass.

Of course it should pass! And you know why? It is high f*cking time that the U.S. catches up with the rest of the world and supports families, specifically new mothers and fathers. What can be more important than nurturing the next generation?

I keep hearing that the bill has little to no chance of becoming law, and I refuse to accept that. I know that if the American people knew about it, Congress would feel public pressure the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Vietnam. I would be the first leading a charge of protests and rallies to get our mamas time with their babies instead of watching them cry as they hand off a newborn to a daycare provider.

Our country is at a tipping point; mothers are having to go back to work too soon after giving birth. The breastfeeding relationships suffer because, rather than being able to bond with her baby and recover, the new mom has to start thinking about pumping and working and childcare. Depression is rampant among lower income new mothers because the stress is overwhelming. It’s hard enough to deal with the sleep-deprivation and already existing stress of a newborn. Going back to work too soon isn’t good for mother or baby. Why are newborns, the seeds of our future, so low on the list of priorities?

Please share this. And keep sharing this. Tell everyone you know. Sign every petition you see, like this MomsRising one. Write or call your Senator or Representative; you can find them using the links below. Please help me wake up our country to what is possible for our families. I want our government to hear our voices so loud that this bill will move to the top of the priority list where it belongs.

Thanks so much for reading, and for spreading the knowledge that will make such an important difference to American families.

More info:

Petitions:
MoveOn.org Petition for Paid Parental Leave
National Partnership for Women and Families petition
MomsRising.org petition

Track the bill:
View and track the full bill in the Senate, S. 1810.
View and track the full bill in the House, H.R. 3712.

Contact your Congressperson:
Find your Representative.
Find your Senator.

National Partnership links:
Please check out out their page. They are an incredible power for change.
(Here is their fact sheet referenced above also.)