Workers Need Access to Paid Family Leave

Elected leaders should listen to and act on the majority voice of the people

By Pat Malone

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.

Pat Malone
Columbia Falls

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