Letter to the Editor: The need for mandated paid family leave

By 9to5 Action Network member Judy Belanger from Pawtucket, RI
Originally posted on Women’s Equality Day, August 26, 2015 in the Sun Chronicle

To the editor:

The majority of people in the United States can’t afford time off from work when needed. Approximately 11 percent of workers have paid family leave; less than 40 percent have access to personal medical leave through an employer-provided program.

The Family and Medical Leave Act passed in 1993 has kept millions of workers from losing their jobs. But 40 percent of the workforce isn’t eligible for FMLA, which allows only unpaid leave.

“The rich get to heal, and the poor get fired.” Eighty-eight percent of higher salaried workers get paid time off, more than double that of lower-salaried workers. This cruel form of inequality continues in this country. It puts a drag on the economy and can force families, through job loss, onto government assistance.

On Women’s Equality Day, today, I’d like to bring awareness to the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, which would ensure that more workers can access time to care for their health and families. This act would institute a national insurance program. It would create a self-sustaining fund through very small shared costs to employees and employers.

The White House is urging Congress to mandate paid sick leave.

If you have a story to tell, a job lost, for instance, because you had no access to time off when needed to care for your health or time off to take care of a new baby or to care for a sick loved one, please let your legislators know. These stories put a face on the issue and are used and shared in the process more than you may think.

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