Politics

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Fights For Paid Family Leave

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades

Although Congress is perpetually unpopular, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is fighting to combat that by creating polices that would positively impact the struggle of everyday Americans.

Gillibrand is working with Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) to propose 12 weeks of paid family leave at up to $1,000 a week as an "earned benefit."

The plan would be funded by taxing the top 1 percent of workers at the rate of about two-tenths of those workers’ salaries, roughly $100 for a worker making $50,000 annually. 

“Just because you have a family emergency, it shouldn’t mean you’re going to have to ramp off your career, take a different job, quit for a certain amount of time – all of which damages the strength of the family and the economy,” Gillibrand told Salon. “The negative economic consequences for not having this protection in place is absurd. It’s such a negative drag on the economy.”

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Gillibrand’s plan has only gained 88 co-sponsors, and she believes the lack of such a policy is archaic. “Every other industrialized nation has it,” she said.

Gillibrand made the point that support behind the plan has been lacking because most members of Congress come from privileged backgrounds and don’t understand how necessary it is. "Very few members of Congress, I suspect, have dropped a child off at day care," she said. "Very few members of Congress know exactly how much day care costs, because they didn’t pay those bills. And so for a lot of members of Congress, they don’t relate to the issue  either because they have enormous wealth so they have unlimited caregivers, or they’re men whose wives chose to stay at home and they had the resources to do that. They don’t realize that eight out of 10 mothers are working today, and most don’t have the support through every family emergency through their lifetime. They’re going to be forced to ramp off, take time off, change jobs.”

The issue isn’t confined to maternity leave and women; the plan will support all workers, regardless of gender, who need to take time off to take care of sick family members. “If (Democrats) ask those eight of 10 families where the wife is working, if they ask the husbands if their wives deserve equal pay, or if they deserve affordable day care, I can guarantee you they would say yes,” she said. "So it is something that applies to the vast majority of all Americans."

Source: Salon / Image via Senate Democrats/Flickr