Listing the rights and protections that are common around the world but that American workers don't have is downright depressing. One of the big areas? The ability to not
work when you need time off: paid sick leave, parental leave, family leave, and more. Since women take on disproportionate amounts of care work, these are all things that hit women harder than men, creating one more obstacle for women to climb over in building and keeping careers. These issues take a back seat for too many Democratic politicians; Republicans, meanwhile, outright oppose anything that gives workers control over when they work. But women are pushing to get paid leave on the agenda
Only one in five low-wage workers have paid sick leave, and 48 percent of all full-time workers in the private sector have no access to paid medical or family leave. Dozens of women at a women's health town hall at the White House in June expressed the dire need for a federally funded paid maternity leave program. And while President Barack Obama did include a $50 million State Paid Leave Fundin his 2011 budget, the issue of paid time off has largely been ignored by candidates in the current campaign season.
Jessica Smith, a 26-year-old graduate student of social work at the University of Denver, has circulated a petition asking moderator Jim Lehrer to question Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney about paid sick days and family leave insurance policies at the first presidential debate on Wednesday.
Since parental leave is so hard to come by, discrimination during pregnancy is another issue women have to worry about. The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
builds on existing anti-discrimination laws by extending specific protections to pregnant employees. The legislation directs employers to “make reasonable accommodations" for an employee or job applicant's limitations stemming from "pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions,” unless this would pose “undue hardship” on the business. In addition, as the New York Times' Motherlode explains, the law would bar employers from "using a worker’s pregnancy to deny her opportunities on the job [or] force her to take an accommodation that she does not want or need.” The bill also directs the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to set regulations for implementing these laws, including “a list of exemplary reasonable accommodations."
The bill was introduced by House Democrats
in May and by Senate Democrats in September and it stands zero chance of passage as long as Republicans control the House and filibuster everything in the Senate.
We're talking about basic rights, here. Staying home when you or a member of your family is sick and still being able to pay the bills. Not losing your job because you're pregnant. Things workers around the world can count on that American workers can only dream about. And it's a dream, not a reality, because Republicans (and, unfortunately, some Democrats, like New York City council Speaker Christine Quinn) are standing in the way.
The only chance we have at things like paid sick leave is electing Democrats, and then beating the hell out of the Democrats, like Quinn, who still stand in the way. So just as it took years of organizing and multiple tries to pass the Family and Medical Leave Act, that's what we have to be ready for here. But the only way to even take the first step of getting the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (a very limited bill just prohibiting discrimination, for crying out loud) to a vote in the House is to get the gavel back in the hands of Speaker Pelosi. We're fighting here to even get the main event.
Please give $3 to each of the candidates on our Speaker Pelosi Project list so we can get in the fight to outlaw discrimination against pregnant workers and get paid sick leave for all of us.