Paid Family Leave, Redux

Kristin Teigen

On Sunday, Kari Chisholm took note of a great column by Susan Nielsen in the Oregonian that highlighted a proposed piece of legislation for paid family leave. The legislation is a revival of the 2007 attempts by now-Senator Diane Rosenbaum to push for the passage of this law. Now, Rosenbaum is proposing a law that would take 2 cents an hour from a worker’s paycheck to build a fund to pay up to $300 a month to allow a worker to take maternity leave, or to care for a sick partner, sibling or parent.

The proposal was important in 2007, but now, in our faltering economy, paid family leave is even more vital. Here’s why.

For businesses struggling to stay open, research shows that paid family leave ensures lower turnover and that workers have higher productivity and better morale. It also saves businesses the cost of providing a similar type of insurance themselves.

For workers struggling to pay their bills, it provides essential help for the 78% of them who cannot afford to take advantage of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which guarantees only that workers won’t lose their jobs to care for a loved one, but provides no financial assistance. No doubt, in this economy, the percentage that can’t afford FMLA will rise.

For a society struggling with meeting the needs of its citizens, research has shown that societies that have family leave have less need for other social services. Hospital stays are shorter and the need for mental health and school supports decline. We either pay for paid family leave, or we pay for not having paid family leave. I'd rather pay for the healthier alternative.

For a nation struggling for an answer to our current economic woes, it is undisputed that when a society invests in its children, the society as a whole succeeds. Paid family leave has shown to directly lower child and infant mortality, it helps children recover faster from serious illness and it ensures a greater chance at educational success. Considering that the United States is one of just four countries that don’t provide paid maternity leave (citizens of the other three have an annual average income of less than $1,500), it’s not as though we’d be trying something new…we just need to catch up with the rest of the world.

We’ve helped Wall Street. We’ve helped the automakers. Now, it’s time to help the bus driver who is looking forward to the birth of her first child. It’s time to help the teacher whose brother just got into a car accident. It’s time to help the factory worker whose mother has Alzheimer’s. Now, it’s time to help ourselves.

Diane Rosenbaum should be supported in her efforts, as should the group of Oregonians who are working to advance the bill, Parents for Paid Leave. It will be a better Oregon because of it.

Comments

  • LWP (unverified)
    (Show?)

    For businesses struggling to stay open, research shows that paid family leave ensures lower turnover and that workers have higher productivity and better morale. It also saves businesses the cost of providing a similar type of insurance themselves.

    I'm just trying to figure out what possibly leads people to publicly make statements like this that are so out of touch with today's reality, but that they fully believe no matter what the facts are. The sheer arrogance in shamelessly making such a comment is fully on a par with James Gorman's statement on an open conference call "It is not a bonus, it is an award", and John Thain's oblivious memo defending bonuses that "Those best people can get jobs other places, they will leave."

    Earth to nutjobs giving a very bad name to those of us working hard to defend INTELLIGENT liberal social policies: Businesses are struggling today because of a lack of customers that is getting worse. Furthermore, I can assure you my friends and family members who have lost their jobs or been furloughed are not considering the relative merits of 2 or 3 offers to work elsewhere. Your comment is so poorly timed Kristin as to raise serious questions about either your mental ability or, more likely because you are in the Blue Oregon orbit, your poorly developed sense of true civility and manners.

    And hopefully no one here will make a bigger ass out of themselves with stories about the sacrifice of taking time off without pay to tend to sick and dying family members: Fully agree, been there, done that, more than once, and trying to figure out how we'll ever afford to retire because of it. It's not the concept that's the problem. It's the self-entitled, utterly oblivious tone of a comment like this that makes it so offensive and that is real THE problem.

  • (Show?)

    Kristen, I'm with you. My only objection is calling it "Parents for Paid Leave." As a childfree woman with no partner or spouse, I'd still like it to reflect my status as potential caretaker for my family members. Semantics, I know.

  • (Show?)

    LWP,

    Wow...that's a good one...you really put some effort into that...good for you.

    Again...PFL does not cost businesses anything and only benefits them when it comes to employee morale and low turnover. Any business owner would tell you the value of such.

    And Karol, I agree..I'll pass your point along.

  • Andrea P (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Just to clarify, Parents for Paid Leave is a grassroots, volunteer-run group that was started by a group of parents who wanted to advocate for paid family leave.

    We are one of many members of the Time to Care Coalition - a group of organizations working to pass a paid family leave insurance bill in Oregon. Some of these organizations represent the elderly, others represent low-income workers, others represent children, others are unions, etc. You can find a more complete list here: http://oregonpaidfamilyleave.org/coalition/ - and feel free to add your name or business to that list.

    The bill itself, which is sponsored by Diane Rosenbaum, would create something called 'paid family leave insurance', obviously not just for parents. We welcome anyone - parents and non-parents alike - to join Parents for Paid Leave or to support the efforts to pass this bill by joining the Time to Care campaign. We think this issue affects all workers, but named the group after the parents who started it.

  • (Show?)

    LWP: I'm just trying to figure out what possibly leads people to publicly make statements like this that are so out of touch with today's reality, but that they fully believe no matter what the facts are.

    I'm just trying to figure out where you corrected her with anything even slightly resembling "the facts" to which you referred.

    I'm not necessarily saying that you're wrong. It's impossible to judge because for all of the opining and anecdotal story referencing in your comment there is a curious lack of... y'know... facts.

    As it stands right now I have to say that rather than undercut Kristin's argument you've actually ended up lending it credence with the nature of your criticism. I mean, at the very least if you are going to accuse someone of ignoring "the facts" and then allege mental illness then you damn well better bring more to the table than personal attacks and vague anecdotal assertions.

  • (Show?)

    Would be nice to see more help for the self-employed and small business owners as well; as ever.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
    (Show?)

    The insurance idea makes sense, but straight paid leave is more subsidizing of hobby breeding. Once again, people that make hard choices and manage their lives well are penalized, relative to those that don't. Karol makes the point in a much nicer way. I use the word hobby, because you're not animals and it is not necessary. It is always a choice. Though one could certainly expect change in the near future, to date, most people using this kind of benefit are having kids, not taking care of parents.

    It makes no sense to purport to be concerned about controlling CO2 if you will not even consider discussing headcount. Sentiment towards this issue is so biased that one is viciously attacked for proposing that we stop subsidizing the behavior. Immediately, any policy that considers headcount is seen as hostile to the family, a threat to loved ones and a totalitarian limitation on personal freedom. People, there is a lot of real estate between subsidizing something and actively fighting it.

    My complaint is there is no balance. The tabloids screen that the octuplets may loose their home. No one publicly dared say that the fact of their births and their umpteen siblings threaten everyone's home. There is something wrong with priorities when I can hear about DHS revenue shortfalls at work, then overhear a young mother on Tri-Met planning to get pregnant again, because 'we need more DHS money each month'. Meanwhile Palestinian birthrates in the context of concentration camp life, make it impossible for them to have peace with Israel. Unwanted children, conceived merely to prove a woman's suitability for a mate, are destroying whole countries and ecosystems in Africa. India's core strategic defense policy is to outbreed China. In the West, violent crime has fallen (get some objective stats) steadily since the introduction of the pill, as it does in all societies.

    Headcount needs to be a consideration in most discussions. That will never happen, though, until it is possible to at least suggest that we stop subsidizing the behaviour. It is still not possible to even have a civil discussion, suggesting that.

    In the meantime, how much spending stimulus is being invested with those that have made the right decisions in the last decade, relative to those that haven't? From mortgage forgiveness proposals on, there are factors that are dangling the "don't worry; there are no consequences for buying whatever is marketed" carrot in an effort to implement a complete Nanny State. What kind of country lets you have as many kids as you want, but has to bring the full power of the State to regulate what you plant in your garden? "There are strong social interests, there". Really? My garden plants are more consequential for society than your kids?

    Look at it this way. You've heard of "tax freedom" day, right? The day on the calendar when you can think of what you make as yours and everything you've made up to that point as being the IRS'. Compute the increase in tax rate required to offset the dependent deduction. Divide it by 100 and multiply it by your tax burden for the year, and divide that into what you want to have set aside for retirement. That's the number of years you are working beyond when you could retire, to subsidize hobby breeding.

    Personally, I would give paid leave and a "new arrival bonus" to anyone that adopts as opposed to having to pass on their special genes. Practically, it is almost impossible to do so due to the cacophony of wailing and gnashing of teeth that one would hear from the hobby breeders. Insurance should cover exceptional situations. Long term parent care should be worked out in terms of the person's core job responsibilities, rather than with leave. That's how I would deal with the various audiences.

    , your poorly developed sense of true civility and manners.

    And hopefully no one here will make a bigger ass out of themselves

    This is what you're likely to hear. We are world class in being able to lecture anyone on civility while giving them the finger. LWP should strive to make an ass of him/her self. It would be a huge move up the phylogenic scale compared to the response. Follow your own advice about trying to do something credible on the left. There is much, much, much less distance between Kristin, you and myself than between any of us and a random passer-by. Your POV is just that. If you can't respect ours, then you cannot advance your cause.

  • (Show?)

    "Hobby breeding." Wow. That's rich. How about "Hobby-being the daughter of an Alzeihmer's patient?" How about "Hobby-mother of a cancer-stricken child." How about "Hobby-being the brother of a woman with MS." My children aren't a hobby.

    The reason that the octuplet story is getting so much press is because it is almost a one-of-a-kind incident. You've got to get better evidence than that. No one is going to decide to have a child simply to get $300 a month.

  • Idler (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I use the word hobby, because you're not animals and it is not necessary. It is always a choice.

    Breeding is not necessary for any individual, but it is for the survival of the human race and of nations.

    In the West, violent crime has fallen (get some objective stats) steadily since the introduction of the pill, as it does in all societies.

    Not true. I don't know what the stats are in other countries, but I know that violent crime has skyrocketed in the U.K. since the introduction of the pill. During that period Britain surpassed the U.S. in violent crime.

  • Dennis (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I am so sick and tired of the phrase "for the children." We sacrifice our civil liberties "to protect the children." The BS that "children are our future" boggles the mind. Many responsible Oregonians have decided NOT to have children. They are an economic burden and many people with kids wonder why their houses are now in foreclosure. It is high time to reward people for NOT having children in the way of tax credits for being responsible and not overpopulating the planet. Anyone with more than 2 children should be penalized instead of given tax deductions.

  • (Show?)

    The Angelina look alike who now has 14 kdis is ridiculous. But, because she had 8 at the same time, she should get those designated weeks TOTAL, not for each kid. It will make the situation more complicated when each kid has a dental appointment at a different time.

    I assume the law would have specific guidelines on how it applies, just as regular family leave works.

    I don't begrude anyone's right to breed, I don't want that confused. I imagine it's fun and I see little munchkins and think they are cute (keep your dirty paws off my new skirt and don't walk in my new pumps!). Because they are so cute, it would be nice to have pleasant parents that aren't worried about the time they take off without pay.

    Again, while my parents are healthy and happy, I never know when that might change and I'll like to be able to accomodate that as well.

  • Idler (unverified)
    (Show?)

    I am so sick and tired of the phrase "for the children." We sacrifice our civil liberties "to protect the children."

    I’m sick of the phrase too, but the fact behind it is indisputable. How exactly do we sacrifice our civil liberties to “protect the children”? Was there a time of greater civil liberties and fewer children? Children are indeed an economic burden, but why not just insist that parents shoulder it?

    And don’t forget: children are our future taxpayers. Given the demographic profile of this country, there’s going to be a shortage of them as it is as Baby Boomers age.

  • Mrs.Todd (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Zarathustra is right on about "hobby breeding" (I love that term almost as much as "crotch fruit").

    Perhaps we could fund these programs better and stay socially responsible at the same time by elimnating the tax deduction after three children and then using the increased tax savings to the government to fund these leave type of programs?

  • (Show?)

    Hopefully folks who are opposed to others having children are also going to be opting out of Social Security, driving on roads, getting the mail and drinking clean water after they retire, using Medicare, etc, all services my children will be paying for with their taxes. What goes around comes around. They also probably are never planning on ever having anyone they love ever sick, ever, ever. Wow. What an incredibly self-sufficient life.

    As for the number of kids, I have my own personal ideas, but the second I start deciding the reproductive choices of others, I join the invasive policies of the Far Right.

  • LFrack (unverified)
    (Show?)

    The reasons people have children are complicated. Kudos to you for not having them if you don't want them. I think it's important to note that a lot of US policy is driven by the idea that people should act in certain ways, and then we refuse to choose reasonable policies that work b/c we are ideologically opposed to their behavior so won't assist in any way.

    I think it works better when we acknowledge the way people actually are, and craft reasonable policy around that. For example, paying direct rent for a certain segment of the homeless population is actually cheaper and gets them housed far better than, say, providing repeat emergency services. But we don't want to do it because it seems wrong or unfair. So we pay more to take the moral high ground. Is that good policy?

    The argument re children is ageless, right? But they're here, like it or not, because they are a result of sex and there is a biological/societal urge to procreate. There ya have it. If you use that argument on every children's issue, go ahead and: stop funding any education, clear the library shelves of kids books, get rid of the playgrounds, etc... Sounds like a terrific place to live - and it can all be yours in the nearest over-50 community. Have at it.

    If there's going to be a debate about this policy, let it be around whether it successfully enables people to care for their family members in times of critical need, whether it's designed well to sustain itself, is the least burdensome to administer, prevents abuse, etc... rather than digress into some people's views on overpopulation and whether our society should support children (with their grubby, skirt-dirtying paws) at all. I'm a bit amazed at the anti-child folks 'round here. Next you'll be talking about all those screaming kids on the airplane!

    Only in the US would we have to fight this hard to plan ahead by taxing ourselves. What do we know that the vast majority of other countries in the world don't?

  • (Show?)

    The "hobby breeding" comment bothers me. If you want to make an argument about over-population then do so. That, at least, would avoiding judging the motives of individuals who have kids or wish to have kids. Motives which are irrelevant to the issue of over-population, btw. But the very term "hobby breeding" judges intentions with the broadest of brushes and as a single-parent I find it offensive.

  • Idler (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Perhaps we could fund these programs better and stay socially responsible at the same time by elimnating the tax deduction after three children and then using the increased tax savings to the government to fund these leave type of programs?

    Why not just let responsible, productive people keep a little bit more of their hard-earned money to raise the next generation of taxpayers? It sure beats providing subsistence to irresponsible, unproductive people.

    And, as Kristin suggests, somebody has to hold society together for the childless misanthropes. My wife and I have to work our assess off at the second job of parenting so that perpetual adolescents and other self-absorbed consumers can enjoy the benefits of civilization?

    Most societies in the West are learning the effects of low birth rates, and they're not pretty. Things are worse in Japan, and will get a lot worse still over the next couple of decades.

  • Mrs.Todd (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Kristin sais "As for the number of kids, I have my own personal ideas, but the second I start deciding the reproductive choices of others, I join the invasive policies of the Far Right."

    I say: Tax payers- through exemptions for each child without limit and businesses- through the lost work time of trained employees through FMLA) are the ones that have to pay for your choices.

  • (Show?)

    So, Mrs. Todd, no Social Security for you, then? If you don't want to take part in a community, then you probably shouldn't plan to benefit from it. Again, works both ways.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Pleasantly surprised by the comments. I think Kristin didn't get my recommendation though. In the case of parental care, I said I would permanently change the core work dimensions to accommodate. Sorry, if you'd rather have a benefit, but isn't that better? Children are a choice, hence "hobby". That's what I call all discretionary choices. If you didn't have a choice, that's a whole other problem.

    The octuplets may be a one-of-a-kind, but infertile couples using in vitro or conception stimulating methods are not. I'm critiquing the mindset that says "let's acquire some children", usually following quick on "I want to acquire a trophy wife".

    I have seen lots that have another kid for $300/month. You have to remember that these aren't exactly economic geniuses doing the math. Besides I said I heard it directly. Am I lying, didn't get the joke, or have all the luck?

    I totally identify with the problem. I'm just wary of a solution that could be taken to imply that the consciously childless should get less attention from employers. This, though dumb, also happens. Next time you watch a manager decide who to call unexpectedly for a late night shift, note how singles are expected to be more accommodating of the employer than marrieds, and all are supposed to defer to those with children. There is a major, wrong assumption in corporate life, that if you don't have a family, you don't have a life.

    Think I addressed Kevin's concern as well. Would have addressed that more, except that I knew it would irritate you, only because it sounds like something that would have to irritate you. You would like to slaughter sacred cows daily, but from where I sit you're usually too busy cowtowing to get started with the butchering.

    I guess in the future, I'll have to discuss this with a little less volume. I wasn't aware that it was possible to have the debate yet, though, like I say, I'm quite pleasantly surprised to find out otherwise. The point really isn't about over-population or limiting peoples' behavior; it's about what we choose to subsidize and why.

    Posted by: Kristin | Feb 19, 2009 10:12:05 AM

    "Hobby breeding." Wow. That's rich. How about "Hobby-being the daughter of an Alzeihmer's patient?" How about "Hobby-mother of a cancer-stricken child." How about "Hobby-being the brother of a woman with MS." My children aren't a hobby.

    The reason that the octuplet story is getting so much press is because it is almost a one-of-a-kind incident. You've got to get better evidence than that. No one is going to decide to have a child simply to get $300 a month. </I

  • De-emphasizer (unverified)
    (Show?)

    (two close emphasis tags is not an "empty comment", typepad). BTW, while they're adding all the dysfunctional bells and whistles, how hard would it be to parse for open anchors, bold or emphasis tags and pop up an alert box? The only thing less responsive than gov. is software engineering.

  • Mrs.Todd (unverified)
    (Show?)

    Kristin: So, Mrs. Todd, no Social Security for you, then? If you don't want to take part in a community, then you probably shouldn't plan to benefit from it. Again, works both ways.

    Me: You know, after giving an example of a financially secure, well run, stable, and always gonna be there for you, program like social secuirty, I must say that you've convinced me to come around to your way of thinking....

  • (Show?)
    You would like to slaughter sacred cows daily, but from where I sit you're usually too busy cowtowing to get started with the butchering.

    Presumably you thought that taking a shot at the messenger would somehow help you take out the message... But it actually does the exact opposite.

connect with blueoregon