It's time for paid family leave.

By Susan Kolibaba of Portland, Oregon. Susan is a project assistant at Kaiser Permanente. She is a member, activist and steward with SEIU Local 49.

The United States is one of only five countries that does not guarantee paid maternity leave. The other four? Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea.

My name is Susan Kolibaba and I am a health care worker at Kaiser Permanente and member of SEIU Local 49. I am working on behalf of other SEIU members this legislative session as a political intern. One of the key bills I have been spending time on is Senate Bill 966, the paid family leave bill.

The Federal and Oregon Medical Leave Acts (FMLA and OMLA, respectively) guarantee 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member. That simply means that you can take up to 12 weeks off work without getting fired – but it does not mean that you’ll have a paycheck during your time off.

Many working Oregonians qualify to take medical leave and want to be there for their families, but they simply cannot afford the time off. While some people save up sick and vacation leave before the birth of a child, not all employers offer any form of paid leave at all. And even those employees who do have sick or vacation leave can quickly run through it, especially in the case of an unexpected illness.

When SB 966 was heard in committee last month, I submitted testimony on behalf of other SEIU members. Julie Markiewicz, a coding auditor at Kaiser, told legislators about being hospitalized after she was injured in motorcycle accident. She needed her family by her side while she was in and out of a coma. Although her husband and son both qualified for medical leave, they were unable to afford to take more than a few days off work, leaving her alone for long periods of time during a traumatic time.

Becky Navarrette, a Physical Therapy Aide at Legacy Emanuel, submitted written testimony about how she was unable to spend enough time at home after her son was born with a serious respiratory problem. She wanted to stay home to care for her son longer, but as a single parent she needed to head back to work to pay the bills.

Wouldn’t it be so helpful to have a fund that you could pay into and then get money from so you could be home with your new baby, newly adopted child or a dying parent?

SB 966 would create a fund much like unemployment insurance. Paid for with two-penny per hour payroll deduction, employees could withdraw money from the fund to receive up to $300 a week for up to six weeks. This $42 annual investment can allow Oregon families to spend time with their families when they need them most. Wouldn’t that be a great thing!

SB 966 is currently in the Ways and Means Humans Services subcommittee. To ensure this bill gets passed this session, call 503-986-1000 and ask to speak with your State Senator. They need to hear from their constituents about how paid leave can have a positive impact on Oregon families without burdening business.

  • Tony Fuentes (unverified)

    Thank you for posting this!

    Our business, Milagros, supports this legislation. It is definitely a critical time to contact state legislators about Paid Family Leave.

    There are a couple of easy web-based ways to contact legislators as well that I wanted to pass along:



    Time to Care for Oregon Families.

    Easy web-forms are always great things to pass on to friends and family who are pressed for time or would like a easy way to engage in the issue.

    All the best,

    Tony Fuentes

  • Joe White (unverified)

    Another job killing bill in Oregon. yay!

    The 'money grows on trees' crowd just keeps it up.

  • Mike (unverified)

    Uh oh troll alert!

  • Joe White (unverified)

    oh my, a dissenter!

    We don't do dissent at BO.

    what to do what to do what to do

    ad hom

  • (Show?)

    If employees pay two cents of their own money into an insurance fund, how does that kill jobs, Joe?

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    I'm fully in favor of this bill. Unfortunately it would only apply to those employers with enough employees to qualify under OFLA. So unless you already have the 12 week entitlement, the paid leave would not apply. I assume that the $0.02/hr would only be taken from employees working for employers large enough to be covered under OFLA. Otherwise a huge number of employees working for small - medium sized employers would be funding the paid time off of those working for larger employers.

  • Tony Fuentes (unverified)


    Any business has the option to opt into the program. I believe that there are a lot of businesses that will opt in.

    • Tony Fuentes
  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    Tony, thanks. I understand that any business could opt in, I'm just pointing out that many employees are not covered by this bill unless their employer opts in. I could see no reason not to, but the OFLA only applies to employers with 50 or more full time employees in the previous calendar year.

  • Sunny Petit (unverified)

    This is an important bill that doesn't kill jobs, or hurt taxpayers- it's a bill that supports family values, and the ability to not go broke while taking care of loved ones. I want my neighbors and friends to have at least a little economic cushion while going through major transitions such as these- it protects and values the health of our communities.

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)

    If it covers people to also take off to care for a spouse, partner,sibling or other loved one of one's choice as well as parents, newborns and adoptees, then I'm for it. Or if not--if those employees that choose to can opt out of paying for it and using it, that works as well.

  • Bill Bodden (unverified)

    "Another job killing bill in Oregon. yay!

    The 'money grows on trees' crowd just keeps it up."

    You tell 'em, Joe. America is for people with the stamina to work 50, 60, 70 hours a week. We don't need wimpy people feeling sorry for their kids and trying to help them grow up to be healthy, educated people. If they grow up on their own and get in trouble, well, we've got Measure 11 and prisons to take care of them. The only damned thing I can't figure is how them communists in France can get away with just working 35 hours a week and taking four weeks of vacation every year and still have high levels of productivity.

  • Mrs.Todd (unverified)

    Perhaps I am just a bitter, childless, career woman, but family leave provisions like OLFLA basically punish those persons who don't let their personal problems interfere with work. I say punish because the work still has to get done and guess who ends up doing it? The other workers. This is not really a mangagement v. labor issue. To me this is labor v. labor and I side with workers who plan ahead.

  • unreal (unverified)

    "Wouldn’t it be so helpful to have a fund that you could pay into and then get money from so you could be home with your new baby, newly adopted child or a dying parent?"

    It sure would...what do the banks call it... oh, that's right, a savings account.

  • Mike (unverified)

    "Perhaps I am just a bitter, childless, career woman"


    I did not know Ann Coulter posted at Blue O

    Life is full of the unexpected. This just helps people with that.

  • Paid Family to Leave (unverified)

    More like "It's time to post this over and over at Blue Oregon". Fine. It's important to you. Reread the other n number of "It's time for paid family leave" posts. Has there been ANY debate? Hacks and trolls yelling at each other.

    How about posting guidelines for the spam that you'll accept and the spam that you delete? Shock me. Address ONE of the serious objections that have been raised.

    Let me guess. You only see people that get it and trolls; only extremist, anti-family objections. Hope you have the votes. More and more, when folks hear this canned, stainless steel rhetoric, they are immediately against the proposal. Quick office census. 7 bodies. 3 say they are 100% for it, but would never admit that "as long as SEIU is behind it". 2 for, 2 against. Bottom line, if you want this passed, get people to promote it that don't have a professional, vested interest.

    The sad fact is that most people in Portland are most likely to encounter union personnel, qua union personnel, in the guise of a Tri-Met driver, taking double breaks. Perhaps it would help if you made the things that work as visible. Perhaps the 90% that are great employees at Tri-Met could out the 10%, rather than showing knee-jerk solidarity.

  • Felisa Hagins (unverified)

    I am childless and most of my friends would say bitter, and I have a savings account. I just didn't use my savings account to bet on when my mother would die. I didn't make a plan for her death and I didn't expect the grief that I would feel. I don't think most people plan their parents or child's illness or death.

    So I think when your family is hurt or dieing you should have time off. If you can't afford it you should be able to have some insurance to help you pay for that time off.

    So for $45 a year my childless, orphaned self is willing to make sure that others have the time I didn't get.

  • Mrs.Todd (unverified)

    Ann Coulter? I said I was bitter not crazy! But Mike you did make me think so the shock was good for me :)

    On a serious note, employers and employees have been dealing with the death of family members forever without government intervention. If you are otherwise a good employee that does not take advantage of the time off you will be (and historically have been) taken care of by most employers. The key words are "good employee".

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