Until Congress acts, the United States will maintain the dubious distinction of being the only industrialized nation that doesn’t guarantee paid leave of any kind. As a result, only about one in five private-sector employees has access to any paid family leave through their employer. For the lowest-wage workers – the people who can least afford unpaid time away from work – that number is one in 20.
The consequences of forcing our daughters (and sons) into a workplace designed for our dads are staggeringly expensive – and stalling our economic recovery. Before the pandemic began, the lack of paid leave cost American families an estimated total of $22.5 billion in lost wages every year. And today, in a moment when employers are scrambling to fill open jobs, 37% of unemployed workers say access to paid family leave would make them more likely to return to work sooner.
Seventy-five percent of U.S. voters across party lines support a national paid family and medical leave policy, according to a survey conducted by Invest in America and Data for Progress. That includes 64% of Republicans and 91% of Democrats. In another survey, by the Global Strategy Group, 69% of likely voters across seven battleground states told pollsters they’d even be willing to pay more in taxes in exchange for the protection of a national law.
I was raised to believe in “the will of the people.” Perhaps a populist notion, but one I’ve always believed is essential in a vibrant democracy. Elected leaders should listen to and act on the majority voice of the people. Its time Congress stopped talking and began listening and then acted.
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