The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag: paid family leave

GOP Leadership Opposes Paid Family Leave In Biden Bill

Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday released a memo laying out their opposition to Democrats' efforts to include paid family leave in the $1.75 billion Build Back Better spending plan, saying that protecting businesses is more important than letting people have time to recover from birth or take care of their infants.

Read Now Show less

Big Media Failure: Voters Have Little Idea What’s In ‘Build Back Better’

Reprinted with permission from PressRun

Leaning into the doomsday narrative that President Joe Biden's agenda and presidency is slipping away as Democrats work to pass both a huge infrastructure bill and even bigger social spending bill, dubbed Build Back Better, the Beltway press continues to do a great job ignoring the contents of the historic effort.
Read Now Show less

Don’t Believe Ivanka: Trump Doesn’t Fight For Gender Equality

While Ivanka Trump introduced her father on Thursday as a “gender-neutral” candidate who champions women’s equality in the workplace, the Republican nominee’s campaign operations, platform, and stated political beliefs tell a different story.

“As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put in place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce,” Ivanka said during her speech at the final night of the Republican National Convention. “He will fight for equal pay for equal work.”

Contrary to her comments, though, the party platform passed earlier this week with Trump’s approval — and under the observation of his advisors — does little to combat issues like wage inequality or family leave. In fact, it doesn’t mention either one of those topics at all.

Instead, much of the language on gender issues in the Republican platform looks to “affirm the dignity of women” by opposing abortion, a practice that it rejects as a health care measure.

More specifically, the GOP opposes using government funds to perform or promote abortion, including funding Planned Parenthood and similar organizations — who, according to the RNC, “sell fetal body parts rather than [providing] health care.” That comment is a sly reference to a video hoax which purported to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue prices.

It’s not just abortion that Republicans find dangerous, though: According to the document, certain over-the-counter contraceptives (not named by the platform) are also a threat to women’s health.

And the only workplace the platform mentions with regard to gender equality is the military, though Republicans in fact want to keep enlisted women from performing the same work as men; they oppose “unnecessary policy changes” that would make women eligible for the draft and keep them away from the front lines of combat — a shift that was approved by Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in March.

While the platform is officially the expression of the Republican Party and not its presidential nominee, it still reflects on Trump and his priorities. His campaign added aggressively protectionist trade policies (to the point that many in the GOP aren’t on board) — it also took a decidedly hands-off approach on social issues.

Besides calling for the appointment of judges who oppose abortion, the Republican platform stands against the U.N. Convention on Women’s Rights, a historic document ratified by 189 countries (but not yet the U.S.) that looks to secure political, economic, social and marriage rights for women.

During Ivanka’s Thursday RNC speech, she also hailed her father for promoting gender equality in his own business, declaring that wage equality has been “a practice at his company throughout his entire career.”

Though statistics aren’t public about the Trump empire itself, his campaign operations don’t match up with Ivanka’s claim.

A Boston Globe investigation in April found that men in Trump’s campaign made on average $1600 more than women per month, or 35 percent more — that’s larger than the national gender pay gap. (For comparison, the gender pay gap between men and women in Hillary Clinton’s campaign is an average of $70.)

Ivanka claimed that more women than men are executives in Trump’s businesses, but, again, that doesn’t apply when it comes to his campaign: Just two of the highest-paid officials in his campaign for the month of April were women.

The Globe’s numbers are consistent, however, with Trump’s rare public comments on the issue.

Last July, he hinted on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” that he opposes adjusting women’s pay in order to achieve equal pay.

“When you have to categorize men and women into a particular group and a particular pay scale, it gets very — because people do different jobs,” he said. “It’s very hard to say what is the same job. It’s a very, very tricky question.”  By fighting to remove gender from the picture, rather than fighting for women’s rights, his views only seem to perpetuate gender inequality.

On paid family leave, he’s expressed a similar hesitation towards actually pushing for a change to the established, but unfair, system. “I think we have to keep our country very competitive, so you have to be careful of it,” he said on Fox News in October.

But both the platform and his own campaign lack any specific policies on these issues. It’s difficult to see a President Trump achieving anything approaching an equal workplace for women.


Photo: Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump greets his daughter Ivanka as he arrives to speak during the final session  at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

California Shows How Paid Leave Law Affects Businesses: Not Much

By Esme E. Deprez, Bloomberg News (TNS)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — As presidential candidates debate government-mandated paid family leave, the U.S. has a 39 million-person test lab.

California in 2004 enacted the nation’s first such program, ensuring workers are paid for as long as six weeks when caring for a newborn or ailing loved one. The law is financed through an employee payroll tax, meaning companies in the world’s eighth-largest economy bear no direct costs.

It hasn’t been the death blow to businesses that opponents warned of, according to studies over the past decade. California’s employment growth outpaced the U.S. average by 2 percentage points during that time, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Paid leave is woven into the economic platforms that Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are pitching to voters. Clinton told a New York crowd in April that it was “hard to believe” that “so many women still pay a price for being mothers.” In the party’s debate last week, she and Sanders decried U.S. lawmakers’ failure to join 183 countries in passing a nationwide policy.

Republicans such as Carly Fiorina, former chief executive officer of Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard Co., and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, meanwhile, say businesses should be free to offer whichever benefits they choose.

National polls this year showed support as high as 71 percent of Republicans and 88 percent of Democrats for policies that benefit workers including paid family leave, equal pay and affordable child care. Some small-business owners say California’s law has helped them compete.

“I’m a small agency, so I don’t have the ability to give every benefit you might expect from a larger company,” said Adam Rochon, who co-owns Sequoia Employee Benefits and Insurance Solutions, a five-employee company that brokers benefit packages for companies near Fresno. “A program like this, where it doesn’t actually have an out-of-pocket cost, is great because it allows you to offer benefits you wouldn’t normally be able to.”

Private-sector workers can collect 55 percent of their wages, capped at $1,104 per week. Payouts to 1.8 million people in the first decade totaled $4.6 billion, according to the state. Nine in 10 people claimed them to bond with a new child, and, while most recipients were women, claims by men have jumped 411 percent from the first year. New Jersey and Rhode Island have since enacted similar policies. A proposal in the California legislature aims at making the program more accessible to the poor by boosting the proportion of earnings that lower-income workers receive.

An analysis for the U.S. Labor Department led by Columbia Business School professor Ann Bartel last year examined dozens of studies on family leave. It concluded that while California’s policy prompted mothers and fathers to take more time, it didn’t harm workplace productivity, profitability, retention or morale.

“The law has not caused major problems for California employers,” the study said. “Small employers, if anything, report fewer problems than large firms.”

Papua New Guinea and the U.S. are the only countries to not offer cash benefits to women taking maternity leave, according to the International Labour Organization, a United Nations agency in Geneva. Financing leave through social insurance or public funds is preferable, because when employers bear the full direct costs, it says, “this can create disincentives to hiring, retaining and promoting women workers.”

Among Americans in the private sector, just 12 percent work for companies that offer the benefit, government data show. Access among income groups is uneven: The highest earners are more than four times as likely to have it as their lowest-wage counterparts.

About half of Americans can take 12 weeks of job-protected leave under federal law, but it’s unpaid, leaving many unable to afford to take advantage of it even as greater shares of them work and care for aging relatives. The website recommends newly pregnant women get a second job, “assuming you’re not derailed by morning sickness.”

Proponents say a federal paid-leave program, which would require approval from a divided Congress, would boost economic stability and help close the gender pay gap. The Obama administration has been among the champions, and in January granted federal workers six weeks of paid leave.

“Paid maternity leave can increase female labor force participation, which contributes to economic growth,” Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said in a report last month. “If U.S. women between 25 and 54 participated in the labor force at the same rate as they do in Canada or Germany, which have paid leave and other family policies, there would be more than 5 million more women in the labor force in the U.S. This, in turn, would translate into more than $500 billion of additional economic activity per year.”

Opponents of such laws include California’s Chamber of Commerce, which says negotiations should take place between employers and employees without government interference.

In an article for the Huffington Post, Fiorina wrote that Hewlett-Packard, from which she was ousted in 2005, offered paid parental leave “because we wanted to compete for the best workers.”

Mandates in other countries have discouraged employers from hiring and promoting women, she wrote.

“We need an economy that is so strong that employers are forced to compete for workers by offering better salaries, better leave policies, more time off and good benefits,” she wrote.

Rubio is the only Republican with a paid-leave plan, but he would require no mandate. Instead, he’d give a 25 percent tax credit to businesses providing at least four weeks. Clinton hasn’t presented a formal plan but indicated during the debate that “we’re going to make the wealthy pay for it.”

Paid-leave laws saddle businesses with the expense of temporary workers or overtime to cover for absentees, said Jack Mozloom, spokesman for the National Federation of Independent Business, which has fought such policies.

He cited a 2014 paper from the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany, that found that “the labor force participation rate, the unemployment rate, and the duration of unemployment among young women rose in California compared to states that did not adopt paid family leave.”

Eva McHenry, who’s run a day care and preschool outside Modesto for 14 years, said she’s had six workers take paid leave. Her business hasn’t suffered, because she requires advance notice and has backup workers.

“When we take care of our employees they make for better employees,” she said. “My philosophy as a small-business owner and in life is: If you are prepared, you need not fear.”
(Jennifer Oldham in Denver contributed to this report.)

Photo: It’s divided Congress, but families like this one could benefit from paid family leave. Philippe Put/Flickr

What Hillary Said About Paid Leave, Child Care, Inequality — Yesterday And 20 Years Ago

Following Hillary Clinton’s first major campaign speech on Saturday, purveyors of conventional wisdom have assured us again that she is tacking toward the left to deflect her challengers and mollify her party’s liberal base. Such assertions usually hint that Clinton is not progressive herself, but merely swayed that way by polls and consultants.

On the evening before her big event in Four Freedoms Park, New York’s memorial to its favorite son, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, I picked up a copy of her 1996 bestseller, It Takes A Village. (While many journalists once thumbed through it, few seem to remember its contents.) Published during an era when the nation showed few signs of turning leftward, Clinton’s first book offered pithy arguments for the same priorities she is emphasizing now. Consider the views she expressed on family leave — and, in particular, the limitations of the law signed by her husband in 1993:

 As I have mentioned, the Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees unpaid leave to employees in firms with more than fifty workers. That is a good beginning. Many parents, however, cannot afford to forgo pay for even a few weeks, and very few employers in America offer paid maternity and paternity leave….

Other countries have figured out that honoring the family by giving it adequate time for caregiving is not only right for the family and smart for society but good for employers, who reap the benefits of workers’ increased loyalty and peace of mind. The Germans, for example, guarantee working mothers fourteen weeks’ maternity leave (six weeks before and eight weeks after delivery) at full salary…

Other European countries provide similarly generous leave, some of them to fathers as well as mothers. In Sweden, for example, couples receive fifteen months of job-guaranteed, paid leave to share between them…

As First Lady, Clinton obviously was in no position to demand that her husband’s administration (or the Republican-dominated Congress) institute paid family leave, but her own opinion was clear enough. So was her view of early childhood education, another current issue that she highlighted on Saturday:

Imagine a country in which nearly all children between the ages of three and five attend preschool in sparkling classrooms, with teachers recruited and trained as child care professionals. Imagine a country that conceives of child care as a program to “welcome” children into the larger community and “awaken” their potential for learning and growing.

It may sound too good to be true, but it’s not….More than 90 percent of French children between ages three and five attend free or inexpensive preschools called écoles maternelles…

While I was in France, I had conversations with a number of political leaders, from Socialists to Conservatives. “How,” I asked, “can you transcend your political differences and come to an agreement on the issue of government-subsidized child care?” One after another of them looked at me in astonishment. “How can you not invest in children and expect to have a healthy country?” was the reply I heard over and over again.

Finally, Clinton drew sharp attention to the social instabilities of the post-industrial American economy and the role of government in redressing what she called a “crisis.” Observing that “long-established expectations about doing business have given way under the pressures of the modern economy,” she warned bluntly:

Too many companies, especially large ones, are driven more and more narrowly by the need to ensure that investors get good quarterly returns and to justify executives’ high salaries. Too often, this means that they view most employees as costs, not investments, and that they expend less and less concern on job training, employee profit sharing, family-friendly policies…or even fair pay raises that share with workers – not to mention their families and communities – gains from productivity and profits…

Despite record profits for many companies, the gap in income between top executives and the average worker has widened dramatically….This growing inequality of incomes has serious implications for our children.

She went on to again praise Germany, where “there is a general consensus that government and business should play a role in evening out inequities in the free market system” — and where higher base wages, universal health care, and superb job training guaranteed “a distribution of income that is not so skewed as ours is.”

Writing 20 years ago, when President Clinton was running for re-election against the odds, Hillary hedged her message — and yet she was prescient in addressing the harms of an increasingly unfair economy. What she said then undergirds what she is still saying, more and more forcefully, in this campaign.