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.