When it comes to policies for working parents, the United States is pretty much the worst. President Obama can't do much about that without Congress being willing to pass laws to bring the United States on par with any other developed nation, but the White House is holding a summit on working families
Monday to discuss the issue:
The White House Summit on Working Families will be a broad discussion among policymakers, employers and working parents about ways to implement family friendly work policies, but Obama will also use the event to urge lawmakers to pass a few specific legislative proposals pending in Congress. The FAMILY Act would provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave each year to qualifying workers for an illness, the serious illness of an immediate family member, or the birth or adoption of a child, and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act would require employers to make certain accommodations for pregnant women that allow them to keep their jobs.
"This should be a nonpartisan issue, because it affects every woman in the country who has been pregnant," Valerie Jarrett, Obama's top adviser, told reporters on a conference call Sunday. "So far we haven't seen any interest from Republicans in the House or Senate for supporting the legislation."
Obama is also announcing some of his administration's efforts
on working families issues despite congressional Republicans blocking even the most modest and obvious legislation. These efforts include:
Taking Executive Action to Expand Workplace Flexibility. The President will issue a Presidential Memorandum directing federal agencies to implement existing efforts to expand flexible workplace policies to the maximum possible extent. In support of this goal, this executive action will direct agencies to review their workplace flexibilities and programs and report back any best practices and barriers to their use. In addition, the memorandum will make clear that Federal workers have the “right to request” a flexible work arrangement without fear of retaliation, and will direct agencies to establish procedures for addressing these requests by employees. [...]
Empowering Pregnant Workers with Better Information About Their Rights. At the President’s direction, DOL will release a new online map that will be a one-stop shop where working families can learn about the rights of pregnant workers in each state. The map will also allow families to see which states are leading the charge in protecting their rights and which are lagging behind. [...]
Supporting the Creation of State Paid Leave Programs. DOL is targeting funds for Paid Leave Analysis Grants to fund up to five states to conduct research and feasibility studies that could support the development or implementation of state paid leave programs.
None of this will be enough to bring the U.S. up to the most minimal standards
that hold in other countries, but as always, small progress is better than none and you don't move toward passing more significant chance without organizing for it and making it clear to voters that Democrats stand for fair pay and against pregnancy discrimination while Republicans block remedies on those and so many other policies intended to help working families.
7:15 AM PT: "Family leave, childcare, flexibility and a decent wage aren't frills. They're basic needs. They shouldn't be bonuses -- they should be the bottom line," Obama writes.