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Only three countries in the world report that they don’t offer paid maternity leave. Three. And the United States is one of them. It’s time to change that.
President Obama was at his best in this morning's weekly address—eloquent, plainspeaking and specific—challenging Americans to do better by working families across the country in anticipation of next week's White House-sponsored Summit on Working Families.

He hit all the major points that make it so hard to be a working parent: family leave, time off, flexibility, the prohibitive costs of child care. Most strikingly, he emphasized how while women are impacted the most by current policies, men are greatly effected too—and not just in a "what hurts the mom makes it hard for dad" kind of way. Men, he told listeners, also want to be responsive, involved parents in their own right in today's world:

At a time when women make up about half of America’s workforce, outdated workplace policies that make it harder for mothers to work hold our entire economy back. But these aren’t just problems for women. Men also care about who’s watching their kids. They’re rearranging their schedules to make it to soccer games and school plays. Lots of sons help care for aging parents. And plenty of fathers would love to be home for their new baby’s first weeks in the world.
He also made the argument that policies that support involved, committed parents make great business sense as well. And that he takes the issues personally:
In fact, in a new study, nearly half of all parents – women and men – report that they’ve said no to a job, not because they didn’t want it, but because it would be too hard on their families. When that many talented, hard-working people are forced to choose between work and family, something’s wrong. Other countries are making it easier for people to have both. We should too, if we want American businesses to compete and win in the global economy.

Family leave. Childcare. Flexibility. These aren’t frills – they’re basic needs. They shouldn’t be bonuses – they should be the bottom line.

The good news is, some businesses are embracing family-friendly policies, because they know it’s key to attracting and retaining talented employees. And I’m going to keep highlighting the businesses that do. Because I take this personally. I take it personally as the son and grandson of some strong women who worked hard to support my sister and me. As the husband of a brilliant woman who struggled to balance work and raising our young ladies when my job often kept me away. And as the father of two beautiful girls, whom I want to be there for as much as I possibly can – and whom I hope will be able to have families and careers of their own one day.

To read the transcript in full, check below the fold or visit the White House website.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
June 21, 2014

Hi, everybody. As President, my top priority is rebuilding an economy where everybody who works hard has the chance to get ahead.

That’s what I’ll spend some time talking about on Monday, at the White House Summit on Working Families. We’re bringing together business leaders and workers to talk about the challenges that working parents face every day, and how we can address them together.

Take paid family leave. Many jobs don’t offer adequate leave to care for a new baby or an ailing parent, so workers can’t afford to be there when their family needs them the most. That’s wrong. And it puts us way behind the times. Only three countries in the world report that they don’t offer paid maternity leave. Three. And the United States is one of them. It’s time to change that. A few states have acted on their own to give workers paid family leave, but this should be available to everyone, because all Americans should be able to afford to care for a family member in need.

Childcare is another challenge. Most working families I know can’t afford thousands a year for childcare, but often that’s what it costs. That leaves parents scrambling just to make sure their kids are safe while they’re at work – forget about giving them the high-quality early childhood education that helps kids succeed in life.

Then there’s the issue of flexibility – the ability to take a few hours off for a parent-teacher conference or to work from home when your kid is sick. Most workers want it, but not enough of them have it. What’s more, it not only makes workers happier – studies show that flexibility can make workers more productive and reduce worker turnover and absenteeism. That’s good for business.

At a time when women make up about half of America’s workforce, outdated workplace policies that make it harder for mothers to work hold our entire economy back. But these aren’t just problems for women. Men also care about who’s watching their kids. They’re rearranging their schedules to make it to soccer games and school plays. Lots of sons help care for aging parents. And plenty of fathers would love to be home for their new baby’s first weeks in the world.

In fact, in a new study, nearly half of all parents – women and men – report that they’ve said no to a job, not because they didn’t want it, but because it would be too hard on their families. When that many talented, hard-working people are forced to choose between work and family, something’s wrong. Other countries are making it easier for people to have both. We should too, if we want American businesses to compete and win in the global economy.

Family leave. Childcare. Flexibility. These aren’t frills – they’re basic needs. They shouldn’t be bonuses – they should be the bottom line.

The good news is, some businesses are embracing family-friendly policies, because they know it’s key to attracting and retaining talented employees. And I’m going to keep highlighting the businesses that do. Because I take this personally. I take it personally as the son and grandson of some strong women who worked hard to support my sister and me. As the husband of a brilliant woman who struggled to balance work and raising our young ladies when my job often kept me away. And as the father of two beautiful girls, whom I want to be there for as much as I possibly can – and whom I hope will be able to have families and careers of their own one day.

We know from our history that our economy grows best from the middle-out; that our country does better when everybody participates; when everyone’s talents are put to use; when we all have a fair shot. That’s the America I believe in. That’s the America I’ll keep fighting for every day. Thanks, and have a great weekend.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I knew it (6+ / 0-)

    All that basketball talk is hooey. Obama is truly part of an evil, soccer-loving, communist plot.

    and I wait for them to interrupt my drinking from this broken cup

    by le sequoit on Sat Jun 21, 2014 at 07:15:47 AM PDT

    •  Obama cures cancer, True ProgressivesTM complai... (6+ / 0-)

      Obama cures cancer, True ProgressivesTM complain about impact on oncology.

      •  Whats the plan? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jazzenterprises

        Other than talking about it, that is.

        Money is property, not speech. Overturn Citizens United.

        by Betty Pinson on Sat Jun 21, 2014 at 07:36:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I know the weekly radio address is a constant r... (10+ / 0-)

          I know the weekly radio address is a constant reminder Obama beat Your candidate in 2008, but it is a tradition I don't think we should give up. You'll have plenty of chance to listen to Hillary weekly starting in 2016, and you can then explain to everyone how your hatred of President Obama had nothing to do with his policies. In the meantime, the plan is GOTV in 2014, as you already know.

          •  Right on! (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            laurnj, mwm341, madronagal

            "the northern lights have seen queer sights, but the queerest they ever did see. Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge, I cremated Sam McGee". - Robert Service, Bard of the Yukon

            by Joe Jackson on Sat Jun 21, 2014 at 07:44:47 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  So, what's the plan? (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            limpidglass, Jazzenterprises

            Does the WH have an action agenda? Im glad they're finally focusing on this issue, but we need some clear policy goals to adress the problem.

            Families have been suffering for at least two decades in low wage jobs for employers who engage very abusive labor practices. Women workers are disproportionately affected since they make up the majority of low wage workers.

            Sounds like we need better regulation at DOL, at the minimum.  Obama has a lot of power to make constructive change.

            Money is property, not speech. Overturn Citizens United.

            by Betty Pinson on Sat Jun 21, 2014 at 07:54:37 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I am looking forward to the day when you stop (4+ / 0-)

              pretending that your criticism of Obama has anything to do with anything.

              It doesn't matter if Obama has a plan or not, it doesn't matter what Obama accomplishes or hasn't.

              I remember you arguing that Hillary Clinton (who failed at passing healthcare reform) should be credited for the passing of the current healthcare law, because she counseled Obama, and then in the same breath argued that Obama isn't responsible for the passing of healthcare reform because it is Congress who passed it. This is the kind of stuff you've been saying all these years.

              I wish you would stop pretending that your criticism of the President is because of this that or the other thing. Just say I'm here to criticize Obama because he exists. For me, and I suspect many others, it would be much more appreciated.

              •  So Obama doesn't need a plan? (0+ / 0-)

                You think he should just give speeches about economic problems facing women in the US, but not try to fix them?

                I doubt Obama would agree with that.  He's said he plans to bring in some corporate CEOs to giscuss womens issues in the workplace.  He should also bring in some trained, trusted women advocates to participate in the meeting.

                How about adding Sen. Warren and someone from the National Women's Law Center to the meeting? Don't women deserve a place at the table when deciding which workplace issues are most important and how to resolve them?

                Money is property, not speech. Overturn Citizens United.

                by Betty Pinson on Sat Jun 21, 2014 at 01:00:13 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  What you're saying is nonsense. You tell me, which (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  mwm341

                  President has done more to address issues that concern women in generations than Barack Obama.

                  The President is working through an onslaught of sabotage and obstruction, but through it all he has made the effort to force society to being more just in its treatment of women and women's issues....

                  When the President first entered office, he created The Council for Women and Girls, which spurred opportunities for women in a wide number of industries. The Council for Women and Girls provided Girls and Young Women an Opportunity for a Better Future Through Education, Counseling, Training and Advocacy, through Expanding Opportunities for Women and Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, also providing Support and Financial Empowerment to Survivors of Domestic Violence, and Helped Women Start and Grow Their Own Business, among other important efforts.

                  The Council on Women and Girls produced the first comprehensive Federal report on the status of American women in almost 50 years.

                  The Obama Administration’s record of supporting women and girls includes Supporting Women in the Workforce:

                  The first piece of legislation President Obama signed
                  into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restored basic protections against pay discrimination. The President continues to advocate for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which is common sense legislation that gives women the tools they need to fight pay discrimination. And President Obama has convened an Equal Pay Task Force to ensure that existing equal pay laws are fully enforced. Through this Task Force, key agencies in the Federal government are coordinating and enhancing their efforts to protect women from pay discrimination.
                  The President has appointed two women to the Supreme Court, and made it possible for women to receive contraceptive care through the ACA.

                  Among other things that are too much to list here:

                  The Obama Administration has implemented the Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract program, which helps level the playing field for women-owned small businesses in over 300 industries where women are underrepresented by giving them greater access to Federal contracting opportunities. In 2010, women owned small businesses were awarded nearly $18 billion in federal contracts.
                  What was it you were trying to convey about the President again? That he does not have a plan for women? That somehow he has not addressed women's issues?

                  Well, guess what....

                  You've failed

                  •  Obama should have no problem (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    mwm341

                    Inviting women advocates to be present at meetings with corporate execs to discuss workplace problems. Other presidents have done it, there's no reason not to continue the practice.

                    Money is property, not speech. Overturn Citizens United.

                    by Betty Pinson on Sat Jun 21, 2014 at 07:23:40 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  You are rapidly approaching my HR threshold (3+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      madronagal, NedSparks, NoFortunateSon

                      for repeated display of wilful ignorance and blind stupidity, and for an ongoing 'I want my pony NOW' spoiled-brat-adolescent attitude that reeks of 'I don't like President Obama because he exists'. If you have problems on that level, please get honest about them; it'd be most refreshing.

                      Progressive, my ass!

                      Strengthen the Senate! ROCK THE HOUSE!

                      by mwm341 on Sun Jun 22, 2014 at 06:33:50 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  There is nothing (0+ / 1-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Hidden by:
                        mwm341

                        HR worthy in my comments.  Your threatening tone, however,  is offensive and very inappropriate.  Women are allowed to express opinions here.

                        Money is property, not speech. Overturn Citizens United.

                        by Betty Pinson on Sun Jun 22, 2014 at 01:19:27 PM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  Stop claiming you are a victim (2+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          NoFortunateSon, mwm341

                          because you are a woman. Everyone can see right through it.

                          Most of the people taking a hard line against us are firmly convinced that they are the last defenders of civilization... The last stronghold of mother, God, home and apple pie and they're full of shit! David Crosby, Journey Thru the Past.

                          by Mike S on Sun Jun 22, 2014 at 01:29:54 PM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                        •  Threatening? Don't be silly. (0+ / 0-)

                          all I want to know is that opinions - anybody's - are backed by real thought and some kind of caring about your topic.

                          Your attitude smells of spoiled brat, spiced with wilful ignorance and a strong tendency to hold President Obama to a higher standard than any of those would be President. Why is that?

                          Your attempt to bring gender into this seems to be some kind of diversion from topic, and plea for sympathy as a defensive act. I'm not buying it.

                          Here, have a donut!

                          Strengthen the Senate! ROCK THE HOUSE!

                          by mwm341 on Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 04:42:48 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

    •  Communists? (0+ / 0-)

      Joe McCarthy, is that you?

  •  Family friendly is a bit too slogany for me (5+ / 0-)

    Total compensation is what really matters to families.  Turning sick days into more flexible personal days is great when your kid is sick but bites you when you get sick.  Flexiblity is swell until the company defines "flexible" as you being on call 24/7/365.  If the policies aren't actually increasing the total compensation for the employee in the form of wages, overtime or paid benefits, they usually get gamed so the company comes out ahead.

  •  Giggles! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Betty Pinson, Jesse Douglas

    "Vows to Work" means he'll make a token effort that will stop when a gust of wind blows against it.

    Then Obama will say, "I tried my best but that wind got in the way!".

    GIGGLES!!!!

  •  Elizabet Warren had made some excellent points (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ishmaelbychoice, Joe Jackson, laurnj

    Link

    In this recent diary, National Women's Law Center highlights her remarks in HELP Committee testimony about unfair workplace practices in low wage jobs. Employers regularly manipulate worker schedules making it impossible to plan anything more than a couple of days in advance.

    DOL should not allow these unfair labor practices. Wonder what Obama plans to do to remedy these problems?

    Money is property, not speech. Overturn Citizens United.

    by Betty Pinson on Sat Jun 21, 2014 at 07:30:49 AM PDT

  •  3 countries only? Really?? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bailey2001

    I'm in favor of this, but only 3 countries? That's a pretty small group. And every other country in the world provides for paid maternity. Just who are these other two countries?

    Only the weak & defeated are called to account for their crimes.

    by rreabold on Sat Jun 21, 2014 at 07:47:30 AM PDT

    •  Well, looks like (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      madronagal

      there might theoretically be four other countries without paid maternity leave based on a couple pages' worth of Google searches: Papua New Guinea, Oman, and Swaziland seem to offer none.

      Lesotho is listed on some sites as providing no paid leave, but there is also some indication that 84 days' paid leave must be provided to mothers as of 2012. If that info is wrong, then Lesotho remains in the US's company in that regard.

  •  The US is a 21st century country (4+ / 0-)

    still operating according to an early 19th century moral code. At best.

    "Reagan's dead, and he was a lousy president" -- Keith Olbermann 4/22/09

    by kovie on Sat Jun 21, 2014 at 07:58:12 AM PDT

  •  GOP response........crickets. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mwm341
  •  My man! (6+ / 0-)

    Thank you President Obama. He's kept my heart and soul together this past year. Long story, but I work for him and but for him I'd be on the street, with cancer.

  •  If not for the obstructionism of Republicans, (4+ / 0-)

    so much more could have been accomplished by now.

  •  I loath the term Family Friendly (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cowdab, Decorina, mwm341

    and the "Struggling Families" meme every politician trots out.
    What about those of us who don't have kids?  
    Reframing it as worker rights and saying  struggling individuals, includes everyone, not just those with kids.    

    "Down with sodomy, up with teabagging!" Sign @ TeaBilly rally.

    by pitbullgirl65 on Sat Jun 21, 2014 at 10:55:20 AM PDT

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