Sharing Personal Stories Won’t Move the Needle on Paid Family Leave. Talking About Money Might

Omicron spreading throughout the country has led to some schools going virtual. Unprecedented numbers of people testing positive are needing to spend time at home caring for family members or recovering from an illness. As a mother to three young children, and a journalist who’s been documenting the impact of the pandemic on moms, this all feels like a grim Groundhog Day. It’s hard to accept that we are all being forced to do all of this, again, without a national paid family leave program. This surge will eventually pass, but the ongoing catastrophe of a lack of paid leave isn’t budging. That is why it’s time to start thinking and talking about paid leave differently.
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Throughout 2021, advocacy groups engaged in intense lobbying campaigns to rally support for the Biden Administration’s American Families Plan. This plan included a program to provide paid medical and family leave. Potential legislation could include between 12 and 4 weeks of work. The legislation has been stalled. However, there is one way that both individuals and organizations can build support for this policy. This strategy was to bring a human face to the disgraceful reality of the national scandal of no paid family leaves in the industrialized, wealthy nation.

Social mediaAnd news outlets were flooded with heartbreaking stories (many from Senator Joe Manchin’s West Virginia constituents) about the need for paid family leave – a mom who left her premature baby in the NICU because she couldn’t afford to miss work, a woman struggling to make ends meet while caring for a spouse with a fatal illness, a mom who returned to work barely able to walk after giving birth and A mother who could have died without her paid time off. This strategy hasn’t worked. Even with 73% of the country supporting federal funding for paid family and medical leave, Congress hasn’t passed anything.

Learn MoreIt is impossible that I could have gone to work in the four weeks following having a baby.

It’s easy to blame this all on Manchin and his failure to support the American Families Plan, but the issue extends far beyond him. I believe it’s time to accept that our political system doesn’t operate based on a shared sense of humanity. The fact that we still don’t have national paid leave in the U.S. is certainly not the only proof of this reality, but it is a prime example. If there were enough bipartisan political pressure from people with considerable power, like the business community, I believe we’d be able to get this done.

I’m someone who’s deeply committed to the idea that stories can change people’s minds, but on this issue I’m willing to admit defeat. Women’s stories don’t matter to enough people with power. My story of caring for newborn twins and a preschooler with no paid leave through a global pandemic doesn’t matter. Your unique suffering doesn’t either. It sounds harsh, but if you’ve lived as a mother or a primary caregiver for the young, sick or elderly for the last two years in America, this probably isn’t news to you. Most people in power are not concerned about our welfare.

So I’m going to suggest something radical. Let’s stop sharing the human stories about why paid leave is “the right thing to do” or making the case that it would be an important social-safety-net expansion and let’s start talking about money. American capitalism doesn’t have a heart, so let’s start speaking loudly, and perhaps exclusively, in the language of the bottom line.

To that end, I believe we’re lobbying the wrong people. Perhaps instead of “call your Senator,” the slogan should be “call your CEO.” If the business community starts to pressure our elected officials because they see a profit incentive during these unpredictable economic times, then we might see some movement on this issue. Demonstrating at the Capitol is not the best way to protest. Instead, march in front of U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They’ve lobbied hard against the Democrats’ plan for climate and social spending out of objections to corporate tax increases. However, last summer they admitted that federal paid leave could be supported if compliance was made easier with other state laws.

Let’s take advantage of this changing position. If you work for a business that’s a member, start making noise about how the Chamber of Commerce needs to do more to promote federal paid leave in order to represent You company’s business needs. If your company already has a solid paid leave policy for employees, encourage them to get involved in other powerful companies. Get them to publicly proclaim that federal paid time off will benefit their business and improve their bottom line during turbulent times.

Learn MoreIn 2021, 42% of women said they felt consistently burned out at work.

Although the economic argument for paid time off existed long before the outbreak, business leaders may feel more motivated by current economic challenges. You can choose the stats that you feel best help your business make the case for improved leave policies and being a voice advocating federal change. The consensus of 17 Nobel-prize winners in economics is that paid leave programs such as national family pay will curb inflation. A 2017 Ernst & Young survey found that more than 90% of companies with paid leave policies said their policy had a positive or neutral impact on profitability, productivity and morale, which could be an antidote to the great resignation that’s continuing unabated in 2022. According to McKinsey’s 2016 report, if we can achieve gender parity within the workforce, that would increase our GDP by $4.3 trillion.

Worker shortages are dire across many industries, but ones like hospitality and health care that don’t typically offer robust employer-provided benefits like paid sick time and family leave are especially hobbled. The creation of a national program for paid family leaves would help the struggling sector. It will make it possible for workers to leave without being fired and for employers to not have to pay more for training, replacement and time off. You don’t have to call your representative. Instead, you can organize small-business owners from your local area to support the idea that paid family leave will make them more competitive. After all, a 2016 Deloitte survey found that 77% of workers said paid leave offerings had some impact on their decision about where to work, and a 2012 analysis from the Center for American Progress found that replacing an employee can cost an employer about one-fifth of that worker’s annual salary. The workers have an opportunity once in a generation to use their leverage. If stats And white papers don’t work, coordinated strikes and sickouts could be more effective than ever in persuading CEOs to provide more comprehensive employer programs andLobby for federal legislation

Learn MoreThese moms wanted to take care of their kids and still keep their jobs. Now They’re Suing After Being Fired

The daycare sector is in freefall and there are no consistent schools in person. A continued shortage of paid leaves could make it harder for parents to get into the workforce, especially mothers. The national family paid leave program is a great investment and could be the key to solving many interrelated economic crises. You want this free-wheeling capitalist train to continue running at maximum speed. Paid leave support! We don’t even have to acknowledge the positive human impact — let’s just call it the Support America’s Economy Act, or American Workforce Revitalization Act, or the Capitalism and Prosperity Act. It could be called an investment by employers or a subsidy for businesses. Call it whatever you want, because it’s not happening out of the goodness of anyone’s heart, especially when plenty of people erroneously think this is just a “women’s issue.”

So let’s get the CEOs lobbying and let the money do the talking. You can do whatever it takes. It’s possible to let business leaders think that it was their own idea.


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